Long Beach State

COLUMN: Players Should Decide Player Of The Year

No one who voted on the 2018 Big West Baseball Pitcher Of The Year award tried to get a hit off of Clayton Andrews. I think that needs to change.

Andrews was one of the best two-way players in the country for the Long Beach State Dirtbags. The junior southpaw led the Big West with a 1.11 ERA in his first conference season, and he was 16th in the nation with 118 strikeouts, which also led the conference.

At the plate, Andrews only stuck out once every 35.8 at bats, which was the best in the country. He is the first player in Big West history to win Pitcher of the Week and Player of the Week during the same season, and the first to win four consecutive Pitcher of the Week awards.

Last week, the Big West coaches voted and awarded the Pitcher of the Year to Cal State Fullerton’s Colton Eastman. Cal Poly’s Alex McKenna was named Big West Field Player of the Year. Eastman (9-3, 2.26 ERA, 108 K) was the ace for the conference champion Titans, and tossed the fifth no-hitter in school history. McKenna led the Big West with 81 hits and 51 runs scored.

Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley said he wasn’t surprised Andrews didn’t receive a superlative honor.

“When you get Big West player or pitcher of the year, for the most part, you should be playing on a winning team, and we didn’t have one.” Buckley said. “There has to be some justification on team success as much as individual success. It goes hand in hand.”

I respectively disagree, and I would be making this same argument no matter who won the Big West POW — even though I do think Andrews deserved a major award. If this is a “most valuable player,” imagine how bad the Dirtbags would’ve been without Andrews.

At one point this season, Andrews only got four total runs of support over five consecutive starts. He lost four of those games. I don’t think team results should matter when giving individual awards, especially in baseball where statistics are king. If LeBron James loses the NBA Finals, is he no longer the best player in the world?

There is no way to know if Andrews finished second behind Eastman because the Big West policy is to keep all voting results confidential. I think a mid major conference should take every opportunity to buck trends creatively, and letting coaches nominate and award players behind closed doors is a missed marketing opportunity.

Why not let the Big West players decide who the best players in the conference are?

The players scout each other for months, and get a front-row view of the entire conference. They know the Big West better than anyone, and I think they should have a chance to vote for the best pitcher and player they faced this season. They wouldn’t be able to vote for their own teammates, and the results would be completely transparent.

Even if the awards ended up going to the same players this season, the talking points and story lines would be endless. What does the Big West have to lose?

The awards were announced last Wednesday with a single release. A player-only vote could grab multiple news cycles. It would even fuel conference rivalries and individual matchups down the stretch.

A player’s vote could work in all sports, and I think it would be a more legitimate reflection of the conference performances.

When I mentioned this idea to LBSU athletics director Andy Fee on The LB Fee Show podcast this week, he said he thought it would be, “interesting and fun.”

Isn’t that what sports are all about?

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.