January 26, 2014

We Wuz Robbed - Mets MVP's Who Weren't

The New York Mets have never had a player who was voted Most Valuable Player in the National League.  Many have come close.  What follows is a list of those who were close to being MVP (had to be in the top 5) and why those players should have been the MVP.

1969 Tom Seaver

The best player on the Mets that year, and for many years to come, was Tom Seaver.  His best year in baseball was 1969 when he went 25-7 and led the impossible dream, the Mets, to a World Series Championship.  He lost out to Willie McCovey who had a great year for the Giants.  The team McCovey played for, however, didn't even make the Playoffs.  (1969 was the first year of scheduled divisional playoffs.  If there were no playoffs that year, the Giants would have finished in fourth place in the NL.)  So why did a player whose team finished (arguably) fourth beat out the undisputed leader of the most surprising/over performing team in the history of baseball?  How can anyone argue that Seaver wasn't the "most valuable" player in the game? 

Seaver's numbers that year were phenomenal.  As noted above, 25-7; 2.28 ERA; 5 shutouts; 17 complete games; a WHIP of 1.091; 276 innings pitched and 228 strikeouts.  He won the Cy Young Award, almost unanimously.  The debate in today's game is whether any pitcher can be the MVP.  Not so in 1969, and that's probably why he lost. The year before, two pitchers were their leagues MVPs. Bob Gibson for the Cardinals and Denny McClain for the Tigers.  Their stats were otherworldly.  Gibson was 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA. He pitched the entire season without being taken out in the middle of an inning.  He had 17 shutouts and completed 28 games.  Of his nine losses, five were by the score of 1-0.  McClain was even better.  His record was 31-6; he had an ERA of 1.96 on 336 innings pitched; he threw 28 complete games.  (The Year of the Pitcher caused Major League Baseball to lower the mound five inches to its current 10 inch height and they lowered the strike zone from the armpits to the letters.)   One can see how, by comparison, Seaver did not stack up against the records of accomplishment of Gibson and McClain from just the year before. 

 McCovey had a monster year.  He hit 45 home runs with a batting average of .320; he drove in 126 runs.  In hindsight, one can see how the BBWA wanted to reward the boost in offensive production from McCovey, with the acknowledged slightly lower performance from Seaver compared to Gibson and McClain.  Still, the Mets were indisputably the greatest single story of the sports world that year - even better than the Jets.  Seaver was the greatest single contributor to that team.  His Nearly Perfect Game against the division leading Cubs on the night of July 9, 1969 convinced everyone on the team (and fans as well) that the Mets were not pretenders and really could win it all.  Seaver should have been the 1969 NL MVP.  

1988 Darryl Strawberry

Darryl Strawberry was the best player on the best team in the National League in 1988.   The Mets were 100-60 that year.   Strawberry led the NL with 39 HRs, SLG .545 and OPS .911.  He drove in 101 and hit cleanup on a team that featured Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Kevin McReynolds.  Strawberry finished second in the MVP voting and McReynolds finished third, effectively splitting the New York vote - which is most likely why Kirk Gibson finished ahead of both of them. Gibson did not have nearly the year Strawberry had, finishing with 25 HRs and only 76 RBIs.  He led the league in no offensive category but he was the sentimental favorite because the Mets were despised for their on the field arrogance. No MVP since Pete Rose (230 hits) had won the NL crown with fewer RBIs.  Strawberry was robbed of an MVP in 1988.  

2000 Mike Piazza

Jeff Kent was the second best player on the San Francisco Giants in 2000, but he still beat Mike Piazza for the MVP that year.  Their stats were virtually identical: Kent batted .334 with 33 HRs and 125 RBIs.  Piazza hit .324 with 38 HRs and 113 RBIs. Piazza, however, played in 23 fewer games and had 105 fewer ABs, owing chiefly to his position on the field, catcher, the most important and difficult defensive position in baseball.  No one could argue that Piazza was the most important player on the Mets that year and their run to the World Series could not have happened without him.  Piazza was the NL MVP in 2000, even if he didn't win the Award.  

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