Albert Pujols was named the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player yesterday, the 2nd time in 4 seasons the Cardinals 1B has won the award. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan admits “Pujols was not an embarrassing selection, not with his excellent numbers,”  but in addition to favoring the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, insists “it is ethically indefensible for the journalists who cover baseball to vote for official awards that have an impact on players’ financial rewards.”

Imagine Howard’s 2009 arbitration hearing. It will be different because he finished second in this voting as opposed to first. That alone is reason enough for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to recuse itself from this annual charade.

The group-think association argument for Pujols, if I’m smart enough to get it right, is that he single-handedly kept the Cardinals in the wild-card race. That is brilliant, except it ignores the presence of Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and Troy Glaus (so much for “single-handedly”), and the fact that the National League wild-card race was a watered-down farce.

The Cards finished fourth in their division, 151/2 games behind the Cubs. Replace Pujols with an average NL first baseman and what happens? Do they drop all the way to fifth?

Of the 32 MVP voters (two from each chapter, which means two from each NL market), only one failed to put Howard on his ballot at all. Rich Campbell of the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star was contacted by my astute colleague Todd Zolecki. He had no comment.

Howard’s next-lowest spot – 10th out of 10 – was on the ballot of Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times. Zuckerman and Campbell both cover the Nationals. They both cast ballots utterly out of step with the norm, at least regarding Howard. If that’s a coincidence, I’m Red Smith.

It’s easy to pick on the Nats’ beat writers. They were no doubt numb after watching that team for a full season. But the point is that the association’s voting is rife with personal agendas, flawed logic, favor trading, and plain old sloppiness.

Three members of the association cast rookie of the year votes for Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez, who was not a rookie this year. If the howling ethical malfeasance weren’t enough to shut this farce down, that should do the trick.