There have been plenty of significant Most Valuable Players through the history of Major League Baseball, but which 10 are the best of the bests?
From studs in the American League like Mickey Mantle in 1956, 1957, and 1962, to duds like the AL’s Dustin Pedoria in 2008, let’s power rank the 10 most valuable MVPs to ever play America’s Pastime.
As a side note, I want to go ahead and inform readers that this is—by far—the toughest top 10 list I’ve ever had to put together, and just because some of the current talent may be towards the back end of (or not even on) this list doesn’t mean they are not worthy MVP players.
My point is that it would be extremely difficult to even assemble a top 25 list of the best MVPs in the history of baseball, let alone narrowing it down to 10.
However, without further ado, here we go…
I told you this was a tough list to assemble!
All three of these guys could EASILY be argued for being included in a top 10 list, but I at least wanted to give them a quick shout out as honorable mentions.
And seeing as though it wouldn’t be right to list 20 names on my honorable mentions, I decided on narrowing it down to just a trio of MVPs.
However, I digress.
Let’s look at the three guys that DID make this trio of honorable mentions and briefly talk about their impact on the game.
Mike Schmidt: Career stats include a .267 batting average, 2,234 hits, 1,595 runs batted in, and 548 home runs (18 seasons). He’s also in the Hall of Fame (and made No. 13 in my personal top 30 list).
Jackie Robinson: Career stats include a .311 batting average, 1,518 hits, 734 runs batted in, and 197 stolen bases (10 seasons). He’s also in the Hall of Fame (coming in at No. 12 in my top 30 list).
Jimmie Foxx: Career stats include a .325 batting average, 2,646 hits, 1,922 runs batted in, and 534 home runs (20 seasons). Foxx, in addition to the aforementioned duo, is in the Hall of Fame (and barely missed this top 10 list, coming in at No. 11).
Through 22 seasons, retiring in 2010, Ken Griffey, Jr. (aka “Junior” and “Kid”) garnered a career .284 batting average, 2,781 hits, 1,836 runs batted in, 630 home runs, and 524 doubles—coming in at No. 10 on my personal best of the bests list.
And in 1997, the year Junior won the MVP, he batted .304 with 147 RBIs, 56 home runs, and 34 doubles. He also held a career-high .646 slugging percentage that season.
The 13-time All-Star is also bound to be a future Hall of Famer—and in going from a 19-year-old rookie in Seattle to a 40-year-old retired veteran in Seattle (yes, he did play elsewhere during his time in the majors), he absolutely deserves that nod.
Pete Rose should definitely be in the Hall of Fame, and it’s a shame he isn’t.
However, I won’t spend the next few paragraphs arguing about such issues; instead, let’s just simply look at the numbers—and in baseball, there are stats for everything you can imagine.
Through 24 seasons as a MLB player (3,562 games, 14,053 at-bats, 2,165 runs), Rose garnered 4,256 hits, 1,566 walks, 1,314 runs batted in, 746 doubles, 198 stolen bases, and a lifetime .303 batting average.
Those numbers, in my opinion, easily make Rose worthy of this No. 9 ranking on the best of the bests MVPs in the history of baseball.
Through 10 seasons and counting, Albert Pujols has continually ranked among the best of the bests to ever play America’s Pastime.
And he absolutely deserves to be in the top 10 list of MLB’s greatest MVPs.
He’s bound to be a future Hall of Famer, and he’s also bound to retire in St. Louis as one of the few athletes to spend his entire career with one team.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Pujols has a career batting average of .332, and his LOWEST batting average through 10 seasons of play is his 2010 .308 mark.
More than impressive in my opinion.
Beyond batting average, the All-Star first baseman has 1,810 hits, 1,173 runs batted in, 868 walks, 406 doubles, and 386 home runs.
Thirteen seasons in the majors, three MVP awards, and 13 All-Star appearances: Joe DiMaggio is a no-doubter on the best of the bests most valuable players in the history of Major League Baseball.
DiMaggio also holds a .325 batting average, 2,214 hits, 1,537 runs batted in, 389 doubles, and 361 home runs.
His lowest batting average came in 1946 when he batted .290 (after four years away from professional baseball) and he held a .271 postseason batting average while driving in 30 runs, belting eight home runs, and garnering six doubles.
Also known as “Joltin’ Joe” and “The Yankee Clipper,” DiMaggio has got to be one of the best MVPs in baseball history.
Cal Ripken, Jr. wasn’t called the “Iron Man” for no reason.
He played 3,001 games in his career, and his streak of consecutive games finally ended at 2,632 games when he voluntarily removed himself from the lineup of the Orioles home finale in 1998.
Through 21 seasons in the majors, the Iron Man held a career .276 batting average with 3,184 hits, 1,695 runs batted in, 603 doubles, and 431 home runs.
He also spent his entire career as a member of the Baltimore Orioles and was a 19-time All-Star.
The top five of this list had to be the most difficult to assemble, as really any of these guys could have fallen in any of the final five spots.
But there’s no doubt Yogi Berra deserves to be there, and he’s my personal No. 5 in the best MLB MVPs in the history of the game.
Through 19 seasons in the majors, Berra was a 15-time All-Star and a three-time MVP—and he also garnered a career .285 batting average with 2,150 hits.
He also picked up 1,430 runs batted in, 704 walks, 358 home runs, and 321 doubles.
In postseason play, meanwhile, Berra batted .274 with 39 runs batted in, 12 home runs, and 10 doubles.
Berra played almost his entire career with the New York Yankees and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Willie “Say Hey” Mays comes in at No. 4 in this all-time MVP greats list, and the All-Star centerfielder absolutely deserves the nod.
Through 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, Mays batted .302 with 3,283 hits, 1,903 runs batted in, 660 home runs, 523 doubles, and 338 stolen bases.
He also became a member of the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (1979) and spent most of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants.
A 20-time All-Star and two-time MVP, Mays held a postseason batting average of .247 with 10 runs batted in, five doubles, and one home run.
In addition, many believe (and rightfully so) that Mays is likely the best all-around athlete to ever play America’s Pastime.
And those analysts could very well be correct in that statement.
It would honestly be a sin not to include Hank Aaron in the top three Major League Baseball MVPs of all-time.
Through 23 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves (along with two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers), the 21-time All-Star garnered a career batting average of .305, an on-base percentage of .374 and a slugging percentage of .555 while driving in 2,297 runs.
“Hammerin’ Hank” also had 3,771 hits, 755 home runs, and 624 doubles.
In postseason play, Aaron batted .362 with 16 runs batted in, six home runs, and four doubles through two World Series (14 games) and the National League Championship Series (three games).
Aaron is also tied for fourth with Babe Ruth in runs (2,174) and is No. 3 in career hits in the majors (3,771).
Any and all die-hard baseball fans have a love and passion for Roger Maris and his race to 61 home runs in the 1961 Major League Baseball season.
That mark broke Babe Ruth’s season total of 60 home runs (1927) and Maris’ record stood for 37 years—and would likely still be the record today if not for the steroid era in baseball.
However, I digress.
Back to my personal No. 2 MLB MVP: the All-Star right fielder, Maris.
Career numbers include a .260 batting average (through 12 seasons), 1,325 hits, 851 runs batted in, 275 home runs, and 195 doubles.
Maris won back-to-back MVP awards in 1960 and 1961, and was a four-time All-Star.
Postseason play for Maris included seven World Series match-ups with a .217 batting average, 18 walks, 18 RBIs, six home runs, and five doubles.
He also won three World Series Championships—two with the New York Yankees (1961 and 1962) and one with the St. Louis Cardinals (1967).
Can anyone argue with Mickey Mantle being the No. 1 choice in the bests of the bests MVPs in Major League Baseball history?
In 18 seasons in the majors (all with the New York Yankees), Mantle batted .298 with three American League MVP awards, played in 16 All-Star games, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
And looking at World Series history, no one comes even close to Mantle’s numbers.
Mantle, in fact, still holds the record for the most World Series home runs (18), runs batted in (40), runs (42), walks (43), extra-base hits (26) and total bases (123).
Career regular season numbers include a .298 batting average, 2,415 hits, 1,733 walks, 1,509 RBIs, 536 home runs, and 344 doubles.
In addition, Mantle is the career leader in walk-off home runs with 13 bombs—12 in the regular season and one in postseason play.
Arguably the greatest switch-hitter of all-time, Mantle is the no-doubter No.1 on this list.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know below…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at email@example.com
[All Photos Courtesy of Google Images Search]