Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who didn't deserve a post season MVP? Who should have won it instead?

Edgar Renteria very well may have ended his long and solid career as a World Series hero. He showed his class by refusing to have a parade in his Colombian home town, wanting those resources to go people who NEED it after a series of floods in the region.

(A ballplayer REFUSING adoration? What a concept!)

He certainly deserved his MVP award with his unexpected heroics at the plate. But sometimes the MVP goes to a real head scratcher.

This is how I define a playoff series MVP. Who is the person that if you replaced with a mediocre substitute would change the result of the series?

Which is why, no matter what the numbers are, I could NEVER give a playoff MVP to someone on the losing team.

This got me thinking… What World Series or LCS MVP selections do I just not agree with?

Since the World Series MVP was established in 1955, there have been a few players who I don’t think deserved October hardware (including one for my beloved Red Sox.) I am not saying anyone who got the award had a BAD series… but they give out the trophy pretty quickly… and sometimes the most valuable player wasn’t the flashiest one.

The NLCS started handing out MVPs in 1977.
The first ALCS MVP was in 1980.

And one year... 1987... I think they got ALL THREE post season MVPs wrong!

So you know what happens when I have an idle thought: I write a list.

Here are…


1960 World Series



Richardson had a tremendous series, batting .367 with a 1.054 OPS. He got 11 hits in the 7 games and drove in 12 runs. But many of those runs game in the Yankee blow out wins in Games 2, 3 and 6. And the Yankees LOST THE SERIES!

Mazeroski had a wonderful series at the plate, batting .320, having an OPS of .960 at the second base position and slamming a pair of homers. The last homer was memorable.

1969 World Series



There is no doubt that Clendenon had a remarkable series at the plate. He homered 3 times in 5 games, betting .357 with an OPS of 1.509. Al Weis, who won The Babe Ruth Award that October, also put on an unexpected show, batting .455 and an OPS of 1.290 and homering along side Clendenon in the final game.

But Koosman threw the critical game 2 victory in Baltimore after the Orioles beat Tom Seaver in the opener. And after the Game 4 thriller, Koosman threw the complete game victory to hold off the Birds and clinch the World Series. He finished with a 2-0 record, an 2.04 ERA over 17 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 0.623.

1978 World Series



Perhaps there was lingering hero worship after Dent’s home run in the one game playoff against Boston. Maybe his RBIs in the Game 6 finale padded his stats.

But the colossus that was Reggie Jackson towered over this series. The year before his homers sunk Los Angeles. And when Bob Welch struck him out after a million pitches to end Game 2, there was the sense that they were going to slay the giant. Reggie won games with power, with singles to prolong rallies and with his hip, that he stuck in the way of a relay to second base and kept a Game 4 rally alive. Jackson finished the series with a .391 average, an OPS of 1.196, homered 2 times with 8 RBI. (And blamed Bucky Dent’s stolen base attempt for his famous Game 2 strike out.)

1982 ALCS



I love Fred Lynn. Fred Lynn is one of my all time favorite players. And Fred Lynn’s numbers in the 1982 ALCS were OBSCENELY good. He batted .611 with a 1.539 OPS. But, say it with me… THE ANGELS LOST!

Paul Molitor batted .316 with a 1.065 OPS and knocked in as many runs as Lynn. Molitor’s homer off of Mike Witt broke open Game 3 and helped Milwaukee hold off elimination. He drove in a run in the series tying Game 4. And he went 2-3 with a run scored in the pennant clinching Game 5.

1982 NLCS



When a player hits .556 in a 3 game series, it is easy to put the M, V and P next to their name. That’s why Porter won it in ’82. But Willie McGee, who hit .308 with an OPS of 1.154 got productive hit after productive hit.

It was Willie McGee’s triple off of Pascual Perez that led to the first run in the Cardinals 7-0 Game 1 win. His run scoring grounder tied Game 2 in the 8th inning, setting up the winning rally in the 9th. And in the Game 3 clicher, he collected 2 hits, driving in 3 and hitting the back breaking home run in the top of the 9th.

1986 NLCS



This is the great test case for my inability to give a playoff MVP to a member of the losing team. I get this one. Mike Scott won the first and fourth games and the specter of him pitching Game 7 hung over all 16 innings of the Game 6 marathon. The Mets knew they HAD to win or face Scott in Houston for a do or die showdown.

But here’s the thing… the Mets DID win. And they did it in 6. Which means SOMEONE must have been valuable for the Mets. And in three of the wins, Dykstra came up strong. He got 2 hits and a run scored as the Mets won Game 2 against Nolan Ryan. And he came off the bench and got 2 hits including a much needed 16th inning insurance run in the Game 6 clincher. But with one swing of the bat, he changed the entire complexion of the series. His 2 run bottom of the 9th come from behind walk off homer in Game 3 kept the Mets from falling behind 2-1 and facing Scott in Game 4. That’s pretty valuable.

1987 ALCS



Gaetti homered twice in the opener and the Twins were in business. They stunned the Tigers in that first game and went on to win the series in 5.

But when the Series moved to Detroit, Gaetti’s bat cooled down and Brunansky’s heated up. Brunansky matched Gaetti’s home run total (2) and out hit him (.412 to .300), topped him in OPS (1.524 to .998) and drove in more runs (9 to 5). And in the clinching game 5, Brunansky started the scoring with an RBI double in the second and added on with a homer in the 9th.

1987 NLCS



I know my many Giant fan friends will give me grief about this, but I don’t care how many homers the Hackman hit. The Giants lost the series and there must be a Cardinal worthy of the award.

Danny Cox is as good a recipient as any. Sure he lost Game 4, but he pitched a complete game giving the Cardinals pen a much needed night off. And with the two teams in a tense back and forth series (including a 1-0 nail biting win for St. Louis in Game 6) Cox took total control of Game 7, throwing a complete game shutout to clinch the pennant. Every Giant was stymied… including Jeffrey Leonard.

1987 World Series



There is no denying Frank Viola was dominating in the Twins Game 7 victory over St. Louis. But there would have been no NEED for a 7th game if Viola didn’t get ROCKED in Game 4 in St. Louis. I understand sometimes a hard luck loser in a game can still be post season MVP material (Josh Beckett in 2003 comes to mind.) But a World Series MVP shouldn’t get hammered in a game where he leaves in the 4th.

Puckett hit .357 in the series with 10 hits. His 5th inning double off of Danny Cox tied Game 7… thus taking Frank Viola off the hook of his SECOND World Series loss.

1990 World Series



I am not a big fan of Co-MVPs, but 1990 was a case where 2 deserved it… and naturally neither won. It is difficult to determine which was more startling about the Reds sweep of the powerhouse A’s: That the bats clobbered the A’s pitching staff or that the arms shut down the Bash Brothers line up.

Rijo went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA over 15 1/3 innings… clearly awesome stats. But Game 1 was a game where the bats caught Dave Stewart off guard and Game 4 the A’s were already down 3-0 and reeling. No offense, but the series was won with the startling Games 2 and 3 victories for Cincinnati.

Hatcher’s numbers were jaw dropping. He set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits and batted .750, beating Babe Ruth’s 4 Game World Series record of .625. His OPS was 2.050. The first number is a 2. That isn’t a typo.

And Chris Sabo’s 2 homers in Game 3 shattered the idea that the A’s would regroup in Oakland and make it a series. He finished with a .563 average and a 1.611 OPS.

1997 World Series



Arguably the worst World Series MVP decision of all time. It can be argued that not only did Hernandez NOT deserve the MVP, but he didn’t even have a GOOD series. Sure he won 2 games and pitched 8 innings in Game 5. But his Game 1 outing was mediocre and his final ERA of 5.27 showed that he got some SERIOUS run support.

He did. And a lot of it came from Alou, who batted .321 with an OPS of 1.101. He slammed 3 homers and drove in 9 runs during the 7 game series against Cleveland. His 3 run shot won Game 1, drove in a critical run in Game 5 and hit the single that sparked the Marlins 9th inning comeback rally in Game 7.

1998 NLCS



It’s funny. If the Padres had won Game 4 of the NLCS and swept the Braves, Kevin Brown would have won the MVP on the strength of his Game 2 shutout. And Bruce Bochy clearly wanted to end the series in 5 when he brought Brown out of the bullpen in the 7th. But he let up a go ahead homer to Michael Tucker, losing the game and any chance at hardware.

Sterling Hitchcock won the MVP based on his 2-0 record. But he couldn’t get through the 6th in either start and needed a lot of help from the bullpen.

The late Caminiti homered in the 10th to give the Padres a surprising 1 game lead in the series. He drove in a run in the Game 3 victory and went 2-5 with a run scored in the Game 6 clincher. He finished the series with 2 homers and a .953 OPS.

1999 ALCS



I swear I have nothing against the brothers Hernandez and their post season heroics. El Duque obviously had a fine ALCS. He pitched 8 innings in the opener and threw 7 innings, striking out 9 and letting up only 1 run in the Game 5 clincher.

But there were two points in the series where the Red Sox had a legit shot to beat the Yankees. And in both instances they were stymied by Ramiro Mendoza. With the bases loaded and one out in the 8th inning and the Yankees clinging to a 1 run lead in Game 2, Mendoza came out of the pen to face Butch Huskey and Jose Offerman. He struck out Huskey and got Offerman to fly out, ending the threat and preserving the win. In the Game 5 clincher, he once again came in with the bases loaded and the Red Sox threatening. He got Scott Hatteberg to strike out and Trot Nixon to pop up. Torre let Mendoza finish the game and clinch the pennant, making it one of the few times a post 1996 Yankee series was ended by someone other than Mariano Rivera.

2001 NLCS



Look, nobody is saying Craig Counsell didn’t have a good series. He did. Nobody is saying his .381 average and .905 OPS wasn’t terrific. It was.

But COME ON! Johnson, who stumbled through subpar post seasons in 1997, 1998, 1999 and in the 2001 Division Series, broke through in the NLCS. He threw a complete game shutout in Game 1, beating Greg Maddux 2-0. Then in the clincher he went 7 strong, beating Tom Glavine and the Diamondbacks clinched the pennant. When you beat Maddux AND Glavine in tight games in the same series, you deserve hardware.

2004 World Series



If I had told you when Game 1 of the 2004 World Series ended that Manny Ramirez, who had committed two mind numbing errors in left field on back to back plays, would be selected the series Most Valuable Player, you’d think I was insane. Besides, obviously the post season hero was Bellhorn, whose tie breaking homer in the 8th inning set up the victory. And in Game 2, Bellhorn’s 4th inning double broke up what looked like would be a tight game.

Sure Manny’s homer in Game 3 took the air out of St. Louis’ balloon in Game 3 and Manny’s .412 average was sexier. Bellhorn batted .300 for the Series and out slugged Ramirez, finishing with a 1.263 OPS to Manny’s 1.088. And Bellhorn got the two biggest hits of the series.

2005 ALCS



Konerko had many heroics in the Division Series, ALCS and World Series for the White Sox, including first inning homers in Games 3 and 4 that put the White Sox in control. But Crede, who topped Konerko in virtually every category, also was clutch.

It was Crede’s walk off double that won the bizarre Game 2 against the Angels, in the wake of A. J. Pierzynski’s reaching first on the supposed dropped third strike.

He hit a 2 run single in the 8th inning to help put Game 4 out of reach. And in the clinching Game 5, he got a go ahead RBI in the second, a game tying homer in the 7th and drove in the pennant winning run in the 8th. He hit .368 with an OPS of 1.139, homered 2 times and drove in 7. Konerko didn’t top any of those stats nor the heroics in the clincher… but still won the MVP.

2008 ALCS



Matt Garza beat Red Sox ace two times, including the Game 7 clincher to send the Rays to the 2008 World Series. It is a pretty solid argument to give him the Series MVP. I get it. But the main reason the Rays toppled the defending World Champs was NOT their pitching staff. It was their bats that went berserk in Games 2, 3, 4 and 5… putting Boston in a hole that their great heroics and come from behind skills just couldn’t overcome.

Upton hit .321 with an OPS of 1.180, homered 4 times and drove in an amazing 11 runs in the 7 game series. Along with Willy Aybar, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, Upton led the offensive charge and gave Tampa Bay its greatest baseball moment.

2009 World Series



Here’s why you sometimes need a moment or two to give these post season awards some thought. Matsui won the MVP, mainly on the back of his 6 RBI performance in the clinching Game 6 and his 2 go ahead homers off of Pedro Martinez. But I have a hard time giving the MVP to someone who didn’t even start in two of the Yankees win.

Initially I felt the award belonged to Mariano Rivera, whose presence hung over the entire post season as closer after closer failed while the great Rivera was flawless.

But in retrospect, three of the biggest turn around moments in the World Series were the result of Damon’s bat, patience and intelligence. In Game 3, a game the Yankees needed to have in order to avoid a 2-1 hole, Damon hit a go ahead double in the 5th to give the Yankees the lead for good. In Game 4, after the Phillies tied the game in the 8th, Damon fouled off 2 strike 2 out pitch after pitch from Brad Lidge and finally singled. Then he stole second and in the series most memorable play, realized that third base wasn’t covered due to the shift on Mark Teixeira. He scored the go ahead (and eventual winning run) on A-Rod’s double. In that critical inning, Matsui popped up to short.

So there you have it… I am sure I offended someone by saying their favorite player shouldn’t have won the award.

Let me know what you think and if you vehemently disagree with me.

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  1. very good article, you gave some good reasons and I agree a losing team player should never get an mvp

  2. To be fair, I understand why Richardson and Lynn and Scott and Leonard won... they had great series... but obviously someone on the other team did a good job too!

  3. I definitely believe Damon should have won last year and not Godzilla...I can't say I am against the pick for Garza in the 2008 ALCS though... and in 1990 for that damn World Series the Reds won, I will always remember Billy Hatcher as the guy who beat the A's... the jerk.

  4. Great research and great points!
    None are more infuriating than the 1960 WS MVP...
    Gosh, how did Richardson feel getting the trophy after his team blew it?

  5. With all due respect, Sully - but are you serious about 1998? You suggested that if the Padres had swept in four straight, Brown would have won the award for his Game 2 shutout. Really??? For a best-of-7 series, there has never been an MVP who pitched just one game. I doubt very seriously that if the Braves lost 4-games-to-none that Brown would have won the award for pitching just ONE game. It still would have been Caminiti, for the reasons you stated.

  6. Yup.
    100% serious.

    The entire series turned on that game. Yes the Padres won the first game, but when Kevin Brown shut down the Braves against Tom Glavine no less.

    And remember the game was 1-0 going into the 9th... so if he had even a glitch for one inning, it would have been tied heading into Atlanta.

    So yeah, I submit that winning that one game in the manner that he won the game made him the MVP in my eyes if it ended at 4.

    Not 100% sure what the issue is

  7. It would have been unprecedented, that's all. Never before has there been a best-of-seven series where a pitcher pitched ONE game, and won the MVP.

    For example - Kirk Gibson's ONE at-bat turned the 1988 WS, but obviously he didn't get WS MVP honors. Yes I know Hershiser was great in that series, but it's essentially the same argument as 1998.

  8. And I'm waiting for you to name Mike Moore as a co-MVP with Dave Stewart for the 1989 WS. Moore won 2 games and hit a big double, didn't he?

    BTW, Sully, I enjoy your posts and I normally only post comments when I wanted to clarify stuff,etc. Nothing personal :-)

  9. Pitching 9 innings of tense baseball does not equal one at bat.


  10. I understand Stewart over Moore for 2 reasons:

    Stewart's complete game in Game 1 shut down the Giants (who had a potent offense) and gave the A's a full bullpen for Game 2.

    And in the post Earthquake Game 3, the fact that it was Stewart on the mound basically made the Game (and the series) over.

    By the time Moore pitched in Game 4, the Giants were down 0-3 and there was no intensity.

  11. I understand that Ramiro Mendoza was key and very effective in the 1999 ALCS. But the guy pitched 2 and 1/3 innings. I just don't see how seven outs in a 5-game series warrants MVP honors. El Duque pitched 12 and 2/3 more innings than Mendoza, so I think his MVP is valid. Derek Jeter also had a pretty good case with 7 hits (including a home run) and a .350/.409/.550 line, as well as 3 runs scored and 3 RBI.

    I understand the idea of Mendoza being very key in the series, but I just don't think you can give MVP honors to a guy who only got 7 outs in 5 games. That would be almost as bad as giving it to a guy for one huge at-bat.

  12. I understand that argument... just as a Red Sox fan I can tell you when that series was over I felt "Man, Mendoza killed us."

    Besides, El Duque started shaky in Game 1 and by the time he pitched Game 5, the Yankees were up 3-1 and the air was out of the balloon.

    We all know there was NO WAY the Red Sox could come back from 3-1 against the Yankees.

    3-0, maybe.
    3-1, no way.

    I remember saying to my friend Adam after the series "Mendoza should have been MVP."

    Adam, a HUGE Yankees fan, said "No doubt."

    It's not like I don't UNDERSTAND why El Duque won it. But I think Mendoza had more pressure in those 2 1/3 innings than El Duque had in all of Game 5

  13. Yeah, I understand what you mean. I don't really like the El Duque pick either. I think at that point he still had the mystique about him, with coming over from Cuba and saving the Yankees' season in the '98 ALCS and such, that swayed the voters.

    I just can't get past my aversion to giving an MVP to a relief pitcher who only pitched in two games and got seven outs. Even if they were the seven most high-leverage outs of the series, which is arguable.

    That's why I mentioned Jeter as an alternative. He played every game and performed quite well, so I think it would have been fair to give him the hardware. Maybe not the greatest pick, but far from a travesty like Livan Hernandez in the '97 World Series.

    And I see your point about the series being all but over by the time El Duque was so good in Game 5. I do agree to an extent, but these WERE the same Red Sox who had come back from the brink in that Division Series. As a Yankees fan who is still haunted by 2004, I appreciate the value of shutting the door and giving absolutely no glimmer of hope. So I think Hernandez does deserve some credit for bringing the series home as soon as possible.

    I think good cases can be made either way. I guess for me it's like how you can't justify giving an MVP to a member of the losing team. I can't do it with a guy who pitched 2 and 1/3 innings.

  14. Well obviously more people agreed with you than me...

    I always felt that Joe Torre let Mendoza close out the series instead of Rivera because he knew how important Mendoza was in that series and wanted him to have that moment of glory.

    Kind of a reverse Denny Neagle

  15. I guess one reason I did this post is I wanted to have somewhere on the internet the guys being praised for their post season performance.

    If you google 1997 World Series, you should see Moises Alou before Livan Hernandez

    And I think a casual glance at the 1999 ALCS shows "Oh, Mendoza got 7 outs. I guess he wasn't a factor."

    Not all outs are created equal.

    Hideki Irabu got 16 outs in the series.
    He must have been more than TWICE as valuable than Mendoza.

    Except Irabu did it as a mop up man. You can say he was valuable for giving the bullpen the night off. But stopping rallies in close games is more critical than being a punching bag