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This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to gain access to the rest of my work and allow me to keep writing posts like this one.
Arguing about what the definition of the word “valuable” contained within the Most Valuable Player award means is a time-honored tradition in baseball. Does “value” mean the best player, or does it mean the best player on a postseason team, the one that helped said team actually make it to October with their presence? It’s always a mess, and yet, The Athletic’s Molly Knight wants to throw another version of the word valuable into the discussion, and it’s one that front offices and owners salivate over, one that should have nothing to do with the MVP award or how we view players.
In short, this article is a list of the value players have created compared to their salaries, or, a way to talk about value in a way that leaves high-paid and awesome players like Mike Trout out of the discussion. It’s a list of the most exploited players in the majors, basically, the ones who are most underpaid relative to their production, but for Knight’s purposes, it’s a list of who has provided the most “bang for the buck.” No, really, that’s what the table showing a player’s $/WAR is titled.
Knight does attempt to walk back her own messaging, by making sure to say this is a list that tells you “which players are most criminally underpaid.” Knight also takes the time to explain that she always sides with the players over owners in discussions of compensation. The problem is that saying these things and then writing this article up with the general framing and takeaways it has made those statements almost meaningless, or at least reduced their impact.