Not all World Series MVPs are created equal.
It's an exclusive club, no doubt, but some MVPs simply had a more decisive impact than others. It's not just about the individual contribution, but also the larger context of the series.
Did the game-winning three-run bomb come along the way to a four-game sweep? Or was the club down to its final strike before roaring back to life? At times, the circumstances are beyond the control of a given player. However, the most heroic MVPs aren't limited by the circumstances, but rather create their own.
Here is a ranking of the last 15 MVPs according to the impact each player had in relation to the outcome of the series.
1999 World Series: New York Yankees 4-0 over Atlanta Braves
Stats: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 saves, 4.2 inning
During the 1999 World Series, Mariano Rivera did what he does best. He got big outs on the big stage.
The legendary closer wrapped up Game 1, and earned the win in Game 3 by working two scoreless innings. Rivera then recorded the final four outs of the series as the Yankees completed the sweep.
The reliever worked in three games, but in the end, he totaled just 4.2 innings of work. For that reason, Rivera lands at the bottom of the list.
2008 World Series: Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 over Tampa Bay Rays
Stats: 1-0, 2.77 ERA, 13 innings, 8 strikeouts
Cole Hamels set the tone for the Phillies with a stellar outing in Game 1.
The left-handed starter tossed seven innings and allowed two runs while punching out five. Hamels came back for Game 5 and turned in six innings of work, allowing just two runs. However, he would have to settle for the no-decision, as the game would take three days to complete due to an extended rain delay.
Once the rain finally stopped, the Phillies won the series and Hamels claimed the MVP. In comparison to other starters who have scooped the award, however, Hamels' numbers were rather pedestrian.
2004 World Series: Boston Red Sox 4-0 over St. Louis Cardinals
Stats: .412 (7-for-17), 1 home run, 4 RBI
In the larger historical perspective, this was a huge moment for the Red Sox as the club locked down its first World Series title in 86 seasons. As far as Fall Classic MVPs go, however, Manny Ramirez's heroics were rather limited.
Ramirez's production was still solid. The left fielder hit safely in all four games of the series, and delivered a pair of RBI in Games 1 and 3. However, in the clincher Ramirez was just 1-for-4 with a single.
It wouldn't make much of a difference, however, as the Red Sox dropped the Cardinals in the minimum four games.
2005 World Series: Chicago White Sox 4-0 over Houston Astros
Stats: .438 (7-for-16) 1 double, 1 home run and 3 RBI
The White Sox swept aside the wild-card Astros in the 2004 World Series, and Jermaine Dye was right in the middle of the action.
The tall right-fielder battered Houston's staff from his first at-bat. Dye hit safely in all four games, and he bookended the series with key hits. In Game 1, Dye clocked a home run off Roger Clemens in the first inning.
In Game 4, Dye collected three hits as he drove in the only run of the game, and the White Sox clinched the title.
1998 World Series: Yankees 4-0 over San Diego Padres
Stats: .471 (8-for-17), 2 home runs, 6 RBI
Not many big leaguers have tagged one of the greatest closers of all time for a go-ahead home run in the World Series.
Scott Brosius has. The Yankees didn't have much of a challenge against the Padres, and a lot of that was due to the impressive contributions of the third baseman. In Game 2, Brosius went 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI.
The 1998, the All-Star turned in a massive Game 3. In the seventh inning, Brosius connected on a solo home run. An inning later, he crushed a three-run bomb off Trevor Hoffman that proved enough to give the Yankees the win.
New York wrapped up the series in Game 4, and Brosius added an RBI single.
2007 World Series: Red Sox 4-0 over Colorado Rockies
Stats: .400 (6-for-15), 3 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBI, 6 runs
The MVP award was well-deserved for Mike Lowell as he contributed with his bat, glove and even his legs.
In Game 2, Lowell provided the go-ahead RBI double as Boston won 2-1. He also got in on the action in Game 3 as he added a pair of hits and a pair of RBI. Lowell even swiped a bag. During the regular season, the slugger stole just three bases.
In the final game of the series, Lowell was once again a key contributor. He added a double and a home run, but neither hit proved to be the game-winner.
2010 World Series: Giants 4-1 over Texas Rangers
Stats: .412 (7-for-17), 2 home runs, 6 RBI, 6 runs
With the Giants on the verge of the title, Edgar Renteria stepped up and made his mark in Game 5.
In the seventh inning of a scoreless duel between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, the veteran shortstop broke the tie. Renteria crushed a three-run shot off Lee to give the Giants the lead and ultimately all the offense the club would need to win the series.
Renteria also had struck a home run and plated three runs in Game 2 as the Giants made quick work of the Rangers.
2000 World Series: Yankees 4-1 over New York Mets
Stats: .409 (9-for-22), 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 runs
The 2000 World Series was a microcosm of Derek Jeter's storied career.
The shortstop was a solid contributor throughout the Subway Series as he hit safely in all five games. Jeter stepped up his production when it mattered most. He led off Game 4 with a home run, and the club would go on to win the contest by a single run.
In Game 5, Jeter swatted the tying home run before the Yankees rallied late to win the series and a third straight title.
2002 World Series: Anaheim Angels 4-3 over Giants
Stats: .385 (10-for-26), 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 8 RBI
Troy Glaus posted impressive numbers and provided the heroics to bring his club to the doorstep of the title.
In Game 1, the towering third baseman connected on a pair of home runs, but the Angels ultimately lost the contest. Glaus also added a long ball in Game 4, but the Angels dropped that one as well.
In Game 6, however, the Angels finally put Glaus' contributions to use.
In the eighth inning, he smashed a two-run double of Giants closer Robb Nen that would send the series to Game 7. Glaus didn't do much in the clincher as he went 0-for-3, but without his two-base hit off Nen, the Angels would have never had the opportunity to win it all.
2006 World Series: Cardinals 4-1 over Tigers
Stats: .364 (8-for-22), 3 doubles, 4 RBI
David Eckstein had a brutal start to the 2006 World Series.
The shortstop went 0-for-9 to begin the set before grabbing a pair of hits in Game 3 and then exploding in Game 4.
Eckstein racked up three doubles as the Cardinals pushed the Tigers to the brink of elimination. In the clincher, he added two more hits as the St. Louis took the series. In those final two games, Eckstein went 6-for-9.
It was a huge turnaround for the undersized shortstop, but the series with the Tigers was never in serious doubt.
2012 World Series: San Francisco Giants 4-0 over Detroit Tigers
Stats: .500 (8-for-16), 1 double, 3 home runs, 4 RBI
Pablo Sandoval wrecked Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the 2012 edition of the Fall Classic.
The switch-hitter cracked three home runs in the opener, including two off Verlander. According to Baseball Almanac, Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players ever to hit three home runs in a single World Series game.
Sandoval is the only one to accomplish the feat in Game 1, let alone in his first three at-bats.
Aside from that Game 1 outburst, however, Sandoval's impact was rather limited. His three bombs accounted for all four of his RBI in the series as the Giants rolled past the Tigers.
2009 World Series: Yankees 4-2 over Phillies
Stats: .615 (8-for-13), 1 double, 3 home runs, 8 RBI
The man known as Godzilla had a monstrous Fall Classic in 2009.
In Game 2, Hideki Matsui connected on the go-ahead home run in a 3-1 win. Then Matsui added a pinch hit shot in Game 3. The slugger saved the real heroics, however, for the decisive Game 6. The designated hitter went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run, a two-run double and six RBI. According to MLB.com, that tied the record for most RBI ever in a single World Series game.
Remarkably, Matsui had been relegated to bench duty for the three games prior to his Game 6 outburst, as the Yankees were without a DH in the NL park.
2003 World Series: Florida Marlins 4-2 over Yankees
Stats: 1-1, 1.10 ERA, 16.1 innings, 19 strikeouts
Josh Beckett took the loss in Game 3, but not for lack of effort.
The right-hander ripped off 10 strikeouts as he worked 7.1 innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The disappointing result left the Marlins trailing in the series 2-1.
By the time Game 6 rolled around, however, the Marlins were up 3-2 over the Yankees. Beckett got the call and pitched on three days' rest for the first time in his career. The righty dominated a superb New York lineup, throwing a complete-game shutout, allowing just five hits and punching out nine.
Not bad for a 23-year-old.
2001 World Series: Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 over Yankees
Stats: 1-0, 1.69 ERA, 21.1 innings, 26 strikeouts
Curt Schilling was sensational in the 2001 Fall Classic.
The veteran right-hander won Game 1 as he worked seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out eight. He returned to start Game 4 on three days' rest and punched out nine Yankees over seven innings. However, the Yankees got to closer Byung-Hyun Kim, and the righty's efforts went to waste.
Schilling took the mound again in Game 7. The right-hander reeled off nine strikeouts, but had to settle for the no decision again. This time, however, the Diamondbacks turned the tables on the Yankees as Luis Gonzalez delivered a walk-off single against Rivera.
Putting your team in the position to win three games out of seven is seriously clutch. As his co-ace during the 2001 World Series demonstrated, however, it's possible to make an even larger impact.
*Note: The counting had to get creative here as there were co-MVPs during the 2001 Series, which means there are actually 16 players to squeeze onto the list.
2001 World Series: Diamondbacks 4-3 over Yankees
Stats: 3-0, 1.04 ERA, 17.1 innings, 19 strikeouts
Randy Johnson only started two games in the 2001 World Series, yet the lefty managed to pick up three wins.
In Game 2, Johnson devastated the Yankees with a three-hit shutout and 11 strikeouts as the Diamondbacks opened up a 2-0 advantage. The veteran then came back to win Game 6 while reeling off seven strikeouts with Arizona's season on the line.
One night after tossing 104 pitches, Johnson closed out Game 7 by recording the final four outs of the Series.
Three wins in seven games is truly incredible. However, Johnson can thank his co-MVP Schilling for costing him the top spot on the list.
2011 World Series: St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 over Rangers
Stats: .348 (8-for-23), 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 6 RBI
If not for a pair of extra-base hits from David Freese, the Cardinals simply wouldn't have won the World Series against Texas.
Game 6 began ominously for the third baseman. Freese booted a popup in the sixth inning that allowed the Rangers to pull ahead. In the ninth, however, with the Cardinals down to their final strike, Freese clubbed a triple to right, plating two runs, and tying the score at 7-7.
Then with the score tied 9-9 in the 11th, Freese took a 3-2 offering from Mark Lowe and deposited it beyond the wall in center field to force Game 7.
With that shot, Freese became the only player ever with two tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later of a single World Series game, as Baseball Almanac noted.
In Game 7, Freese drove in two more runs on a double as the Cardinals took the series, and the third baseman cemented his spot atop the list.