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On Thursday, the BBWAA announced its selections for AL and NL MVP, and while you may not have agreed with the results, they were from from the most controversial we've ever seen. James Click identified some of the least-defensible first-place MVP votes ever in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Crooked Numbers" column on November 17, 2005.
Earlier this week, the BBWAA handed out the real hardware: the MVP awards. In case you've been too busy watching the newly renamed ESPNTO ("All Terrell Owens, All the Time"), know that
Down there at the bottom of the NL ballot, we see the names of
Motivations and reasoning aside, the fact of the matter is that Eyre had a 2.5 WARP1 for the season–a thoroughly unremarkable total–and still garnered a vote. Reyes wasn't much better (3.5 WARP1). But were these the worst MVP votes in the history of the game? Hardly.
Going by straight WARP1, only two players have ever garnered MVP votes while performing below replacement level, both way back in 1950:
Of course, those were only ninth- and tenth-place votes, so it's possible that local writers had some small motivation and didn't think tossing a tenth-place vote to a terrible local player would hurt anyone. A more egregious offense is to distribute first-place votes to players who were objectively terrible. To determine the worst first-place votes ever cast, let's look at the list of players who ranked lowest in their league in WARP1 and yet still received a first place vote:
1st Place WARP Year Player Lg Votes Win WARP1 Rank ---- ---------------- -- --------- --- ----- ---- 1992 Joe Carter AL 4 N 4.3 92 2003 Miguel Tejada AL 1 N 4.5 91 1956 Pee Wee Reese NL 3 N 2.6 91 1989 George Bell AL 4 N 4.9 85 1979 Willie Stargell NL 4 Y 4.4 82 2003 David Ortiz AL 4 N 4.9 75 1982 Bruce Sutter NL 2 N 5.1 70 1996 Juan Gonzalez AL 11 Y 5.0 68 1989 Dennis Eckersley AL 3 N 5.2 67 1937 Harry Danning NL 1 N 3.8 67
As if there wasn't already enough fodder for the "
On this list, of course, are the two worst MVPs ever awarded according to WARP1 rank:
The 1996 AL MVP race was not unlike this year's contest, as Rodriguez took on a DH in the battle for the hardware. As opposed to 2005, when "clutch" hitting stats were supposedly the reason for considering a DH on equal ground with one of the league's best fielders, the 1996 debacle was a debate about first-place teams and RBI. Gonzalez had a huge season with the bat (.314/.368/.643 with 47 HR and 147 RBI), but AL DHs hit .277/.364/.466 that year. Rodriguez, on the other hand, hit .358/.414/.631 with 36 HR and 123 RBI. His .326 EqA easily trumps Gonzalez's .304, but more importantly, Rodriguez did all this while players like
The 1996 MVP vote is usually cited as one of the worst of all time, and having it validated by Gonzalez's terrible WARP1 ranking only furthers that line of thinking. Is it worse than Stargell's election in 1979? By WARP1 rank, yes, but at least Hernandez was able to split that award. Rodriguez got nothing in 1996 for one of the greatest seasons of all time by a shortstop. At least in 2005, the voters gave the award the most deserving player, even if they tossed a few misplaced tenth-place votes.
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