The Vault Challenge: MLB is giving away $1M… in 9 years

MLB has now given us The Vault Challenge, a more difficult than initially seeming contest. Nonetheless, take a shot. There are nine questions.

Those of you who are intrigued by contests have undoubtedly seen The Vault Challenge on MLB.com. However, if your COVID-19 restrictions haven’t already driven you to even considering on-line contests as entertainment, let me lay out the task involved in this particular pastime, which at first glance may seem fairly simple.

To win The Vault Challenge and $1 million you must correctly predict the coming decade’s leaders in nine categories, some for individual players and some for whole teams. The winner will be announced after December 1, 2029, so this is not a contest for the elderly.

(Is there potential here, with a really good Philadelphia lawyer, for an age discrimination case? “Your Honor, plaintiff would like to force MLB.com to have a five-year contest! Or better yet, a three-year contest!”)

In any event, the million-dollar winner only has to name this decade’s individual home run leader, individual hits champ, the individual pitching wins leader, and strikeout king, the team champions in wins and World Series titles, and – back to the individual crowns – the players with the most MVP and Cy Young awards, and finally, the guy named to the most All-Star games.

I didn’t dig into any ultra-fine print in the rules, but for the questions with possible ties, one answer per question per entry seems to be enough. The rules indicate tiebreakers, and the possibility of dividing the grand prize does exist.

Anyway, a simple walk in the park – nine times.

The Vault Challenge is clearly difficult because of the multiple tasks required, but it seems doubly hard because of the fact that most even fairly faithful, but casual fans couldn’t tell you who should be named for the past decade in the areas asked about.

Nelson Cruz was the home run leader.

Oh, you got that right? Plus-or-minus five, give the number of dingers he collected.

Indeed, even older fans who lived through the 1950s, ’60s, or ’70s might get the question about the home run leader for those whole decades wrong, and there were far fewer players to worry about then.

Casual fans might well assert that the ’50s leader was Mickey Mantle, the ’60s leader one of the Willies – Mays or McCovey – and the ’70s had to be led by Mike Schmidt, right?

The right answers there are Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew (Mays was third in the ’60s), and Willie Stargell. Schmidt led the ’80s, for the record, with 313 homers.

Then, and we’re still thinking about question number one here, how do you factor in the modern notion of launch angle for a season when a) people were catching on to the notion that launch angle isn’t a great idea all the time, and b) there’s an indeterminate interruption of play?

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The rules for The Vault Challenge explicitly state: “Any MLB season(s) shortened, lengthened or not played – for any reason or for any duration – will have no effect on the definition of the Decade.”

So, basically, the more we think about this, the more this contest seems totally impossible. So maybe you should forget the research, and just pick some guy in the minors for the Cy Young champion. You may well be right.

Or maybe deGrom will win three more, which ought to do it for that question.

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Ultimately, The Vault Challenge seems a nice diversion. It’s also nice that MLB.com claims they’re throwing a million dollars at us to participate. Let’s hope they actually have to pay somebody who survives the apocalypse.

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