MLB's 25 Biggest MVP Snubs of All Time
As a New York Yankees fan, there is one moment in MLB history that still burns me up regularly. Forget the 2004 ALCS—I was even more upset when Derek Jeter (pictured) lost the AL MVP Award in 2006 just because he didn't have big power numbers. If you ask me, it was a snub that borders on the unforgivable.
Then it occurred to me: The AL MVP Award is to be announced this afternoon, and if convention is defied with the fact that Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander wins, many more deserving players will have been snubbed.
Thus, let's go through the annals of MLB history and take a look at the 25 biggest MVP snubs of all time.
No. 25: Derek Jeter, 2006
In 2006, Derek Jeter had a phenomenal season. As his New York Yankees made a big push for the retention of first place starting in August, the Captain was clutch down the stretch and finished the season with an incredible stat line.
On the season, Jeter hit .343 with 14 home runs, 97 RBI and an incredible 34 steals, as well as accumulating 214 total hits and scoring 118 runs. Sure enough, fans would chant "MVP! MVP!" whenever he came up to bat.
However, Jeter fell victim to an archaic belief that all MVPs must also have great power numbers. Thus, he lost to Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who, despite having an inferior average of .321, hit 34 home runs and drove in 130 runs on the season.
Still, as upset as I was about Jeter losing this year, I'll admit that Morneau at least had an MVP-caliber season. Thus, it's a good case to kick off our countdown.
No. 24: Paul Molitor, 1993
Easily one of the best hitters to never win the MVP Award, Paul Molitor could simply do it all. He hit well for average, had some pop, played good defense and even had some speed to boot.
In 1993, at age 36, he joined a Toronto Blue Jays team that was fresh off a World Series victory. Sure enough, despite his age, Molitor proved to be one of the most consistent players on the team, if not the most.
Not only did he bat .332, but he hit a career-high 22 home runs and had 111 RBI. On top of that, he stole 22 bases and led the majors with 211 hits.
Molitor's efforts were essential as the Blue Jays got back to the World Series and clinched it in six games. In the Fall Classic, he hit .500 with two homers and eight RBI and was the easy choice for World Series MVP.
Yet in terms of AL MVP, Molitor once again got the shaft. Despite being a key cog in Toronto's quest to repeat as champions, he finished second to Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas, who hit .317 with 41 home runs and 128 RBI.
It was another case of a power hitter upstaging a better all-around hitter, so we can't get too mad about this one. Yet the fact that Thomas did not lead the AL or majors in any major offensive category is just a bit puzzling.
No. 23: Don Mattingly, 1986
Although he never won a World Series with the team, Don Mattingly remains an iconic figure in New York Yankees history.
His ability to hit for both great average and power in his prime made him one of the players to watch in the 1980s, and his efforts were rewarded in 1985 when he took home the AL MVP Award after hitting .324 with 35 home runs and an MLB-leading 145 RBI.
Mattingly had another great season in 1986 when he hit an incredible .352. His power numbers were down, as he hit just 31 homers with 113 RBI, but his leading the majors with 238 total hits more than made up for that. Yet "Donnie Baseball" still got the shaft when it came time to give out the awards.
In this case, Mattingly lost to Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, who went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA that year.
This is a huge snub for two reasons. First, starting pitchers only play every few days and thus shouldn't even qualify for the MVP Award, no matter how important they are to their team. Second, in this particular case, it seems that Mattingly was snubbed simply because of the archaic belief that all MVPs must be on winning teams.
Considering how Clemens' team made the World Series that season while Mattingly's Yankees did not even make the playoffs, this could be an argument with some merit.
No. 22: Al Kaline, 1955
In 1955, 20-year-old Al Kaline had a phenomenal season. He led the AL in batting with a .340 average, hit 27 home runs with 102 RBI and led the majors with 200 hits.
Yet his Detroit Tigers did not have much offense besides him, and the team's pitching staff was mediocre at best. That year, the Tigers finished fifth in the American League standings.
As a result, despite his great season, Kaline finished second in MVP voting to New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, who hit .272 with 27 home runs and 108 RBI. To add insult to injury, Berra did not lead in any major offensive categories.
Yet his team made it to the World Series, and thus Kaline was passed over.
No. 21: Kirby Puckett, 1992
Before glaucoma cut his Hall of Fame career short, Minnesota Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett was one of the best outfielders in the game. He had a great bat that hit for both average and power, was a team leader and his fielding was just plain off the hook.
He had a great 1992 campaign, batting .329 with 19 homers, 110 RBI and an MLB-leading 210 hits. Yet because his team finished second in its division and thus missed the playoffs, Puckett was once again denied an MVP trophy.
Instead, the award was given to Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley, whose team had finished ahead of Puckett's in the standings.
Eckersley did have a great season, going 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 51 saves out of the bullpen, but he still should not have won. If he was truly deserving of that award, then how come elite closers of today like Mariano Rivera have never won it despite putting up equal or superior numbers?
No. 20: Alan Trammell, 1987
In 1987, the Detroit Tigers were looking to get back to the World Series. The man at the forefront of that march was shortstop Alan Trammell, who had a career season in hitting .343 with 28 home runs and 105 RBI, all career highs.
His team would make the playoffs but lose to the eventual World Series champion Minnesota Twins in the ALCS.
Still, Trammell was easily the best all-around player in the AL that year. Unfortunately, the voters did not see it as such and gave the AL MVP Award to Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Bell, who hit 47 home runs on the year and led the AL with 134 RBI.
It was another case of power numbers superseding overall value to one's team.
No. 19: Reggie Jackson, 1974
In the early 1970s, the Oakland Athletics were constantly the team to beat. They won three consecutive World Series from 1972 to 1974, and a key member of all three teams was outfielder Reggie Jackson, who won the AL MVP Award in 1973 with a .293 average and an AL-leading 32 home runs and 117 RBI.
Jackson had another MVP-caliber season in 1974 when he hit .289 with 29 homers, 93 RBI and 25 steals.
Despite the fact that his team would go on to achieve the three-peat, Jackson would finish fourth in voting. The award was instead given to Texas Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs, who hit .301 with 25 home runs and an AL-leading 118 RBI.
I'm sorry, but giving someone an award just because of a decent batting average and high RBI count is just unacceptable, especially when a more qualified candidate is in the finalist pool.
No. 18: Willie Mays, 1960
Easily one of the greatest outfielders of all time, Willie Mays added another impressive season to his résumé in 1960. The 29-year-old hit .319 with 29 home runs with 103 RBI and also stole 25 bases, pretty impressive considering how his San Francisco Giants finished fifth in the NL that year.
Yet therein lies why Mays was robbed of what would have been his second MVP Award. Since his team did not make it to the postseason (just the World Series in those years), the NL MVP Award was given to Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop and NL batting title winner (.325) Dick Groat, whose team won the Fall Classic that year.
The fact that a great all-around player like Mays was given the shaft for a one-time wonder like Groat is just, well, upsetting. If changes need to be made to the criteria already used in MVP voting, this is a prime case as to why.
No. 17: David Wright, 2006
Believe it or not, the New York Mets used to be good. In 2006, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS before losing to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals. One of the key players on that Mets team was third baseman David Wright, who hit .311 with 26 home runs, 116 RBI and 20 stolen bases.
Yet despite the fact that fans would chant "MVP! MVP!" whenever he came up to bat, Wright got zero respect when it came time to vote for the NL MVP.
First, the award was given to Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who hit .313 and led the majors with 58 home runs and 149 RBI. Those are great numbers, but he had a bit of help with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell consistently getting on base for him.
To add insult to injury, Wright finished NINTH in voting that year. That's just unacceptable given how important he was to the team down the stretch.
No. 16: Carlos Gonzalez, 2010
Here we have another case of a player getting the shaft just because his team did not make the playoffs.
In 2010, Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez just had a great season, winning the NL batting title with a .336 average while also smacking 34 home runs with 117 RBI. Even more impressive, he stole 26 bases.
Yet Gonzalez lost the NL MVP to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who had a great year, but it just seems Votto won because his team made it to the postseason while Gonzalez's did not.
No. 15: Derek Jeter, 2009
If there's one thing I don't understand, it's the media's obsession with one Joe Mauer. Sure, he had some great seasons, but he was playing in a great hitter's park in the Metrodome, and now that he has Target Field as his home stadium, his numbers have dropped tremendously.
On top of that, Mauer is a shell of the player he once was, and to be honest, I don't see why he won the AL MVP Award over Derek Jeter in 2009.
That year, Jeter hit .334 with 18 homers, 66 RBI and 30 stolen bases.
Don't get me wrong—Mauer had a phenomenal season as well. He hit .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBI as he led his Minnesota Twins on a phenomenal second-half run that ended with an AL Central title. Therein lies my beef with this.
It seems that Mauer won the award just for his team's performance from mid July and on. In Jeter's case, despite having a boatload of talent surrounding him, he united his team after a season that saw the Yankees miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Call me crazy, but that deserves more recognition than a little two-and-a-half-month run that ultimately ends with a first-round elimination.
No. 14: Boog Powell, 1969
In 1969, the Baltimore Orioles made the first of what would be three consecutive World Series appearances for them. The team's best hitter in 1969 was first baseman Boog Powell, who hit .304 with 37 home runs and 121 RBI. Based on team success alone, Powell should have been a shoo-in for AL MVP.
Instead, the award was given to Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins, who hit .276 but led the majors with 49 home runs and 140 RBI.
OK, so let me get this straight. One man has a great year and takes his team to a World Series appearance, but the award goes to the guy who just had more in terms of home runs and RBI? There's one word for that: blasphemy.
But speaking of the Twins...
No. 13: Tony Oliva, 1965
Poor Tony Oliva. The guy just can't catch a break. He won three batting titles and finished his career with a .304 career mark but still isn't in the Hall of Fame.
On top of that, the man never won an MVP Award. He finished second in 1965, when he won the AL batting crown with a .321 average while also hitting 16 home runs with 98 RBI as his team made it to the World Series.
Yet when award time came along, Oliva lost to teammate Zoilo Versalles, who hit just .273 with 19 homers and 77 RBI. He also happened to lead the AL with 122 strikeouts. I'm sorry, but this just should not have happened, as Oliva clearly had the better season.
No. 12: Alfonso Soriano, 2002
Before he was frustrating Cubs fans, Alfonso Soriano was an effective power-hitting second baseman for the New York Yankees. His best season came in 2002, when he broke out with a .300 average, 39 homers, 102 RBI and 41 steals. In terms of all-around skills, he was the best.
Yet voters' Yankee bias reared its ugly head once again, as the AL MVP was awarded to Oakland Athletics shortstop Miguel Tejada, who hit .308 with 34 home runs and 131 RBI. Not only was Soriano the better player who should have won, but Tejada could have been using steroids that year.
No. 11: Johnny Mize, 1947
Easily one of the best power hitters of his generation, it's shocking that Johnny Mize did not win an MVP Award in his 15-year career.
One particular instance where he should have won occurred in 1947, when "The Big Cat" hit .302 while leading the majors with 51 home runs, 138 RBI and 137 runs scored.
Instead, the NL MVP award was given to Bob Elliott of the Boston Braves, who hit .317 with 22 home runs and 113 RBI. Considering how neither man's team made the World Series that year, I'm simply puzzled as to why Elliott won over Mize.
No. 10: Stan Musial, 1944
I'm pretty sure that I'm one of hundreds of baseball writers trying to figure out why Stan "The Man" Musial did not win the NL MVP Award in 1944.
In a year that saw his St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series over the rival St. Louis Browns, Musial hit .347 with 12 home runs and 94 RBI while leading the NL with 197 total hits.
Yet for some reason or another, NL MVP was awarded to his teammate, shortstop Marty Marion. Simply put, Marion was an average player who managed to win the award with a .267 average, six homers and 63 RBI. To put it bluntly, Musial was the victim of the ultimate highway robbery in MVP voting.
No. 9: Lou Brock, 1974
Before there was Rickey Henderson, there was Lou Brock. This man was great at getting on base, and if he got there, pitchers prayed that they would be able to keep him from advancing. Brock was just that fast!
In 1974 he hit .306, and despite having just three home runs and 48 RBI, he led the majors with 118 stolen bases. Yet because his team finished in second place and did not make the playoffs, Brock was denied the NL MVP trophy.
Instead, it was given to Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, whose .312 average, 21 homers and 111 RBI were instrumental in getting his team back to the World Series for the first time since 1966.
No. 8: Chuck Klein, 1931
Chuck Klein had a great season in 1931. He hit .337, led the NL with 31 homers and 121 RBI and seemed primed to take home the NL MVP trophy. Yet he played for the consistently losing Philadelphia Phillies, and thus the trophy was not his.
Instead, it was given to Frankie Frisch, who hit .311 with four homers, 82 RBI and 28 steals as his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.
No. 7: Lou Gehrig, 1928
The fact that Lou Gehrig did not receive a second MVP Award in 1928 is not entirely his fault, as a rule existed back then that prevented players from winning the award more than once. Still, it doesn't make it right that Mickey Cochrane won the award that year with a .293 average, 10 home runs and 57 RBI.
You see, that season, Gehrig hit .374 with 27 home runs and an MLB-leading 142 RBI as the Yankees won their second consecutive World Series title.
No. 6: Alex Rodriguez, 1996
1996 was Alex Rodriguez's first season as a full-time player, and he adjusted to his new role quite nicely. The starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners, just 20 years old, won the AL batting title with a .358 average and also hit 36 home runs with 123 RBI while leading the AL with 141 runs scored.
Yet because the Mariners missed the playoffs, Rodriguez finished second in MVP voting. Ahead of him was Texas Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez, whose team made the playoffs on the back of his season that ended with a .314 average, 47 homers and 144 RBI.
I don't know about you, but I say that A-Rod had the better year and was more valuable down the stretch, don't you think?
No. 5: Matt Holliday, 2007
In 2007, Matt Holliday was instrumental in the Colorado Rockies going on a miracle run that resulted in a trip to the World Series. That year, he won the NL batting title with a .340 average and hit 36 home runs while driving in an NL-leading 137 RBI. He also led the NL with 216 total hits.
Despite this, Holliday was denied the award for reasons I'm still trying to uncover. The NL MVP trophy was instead given to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who had 30 home runs and 94 RBI but hit just .296 and had 41 steals.
That being said, if lack of steals is what kept Holliday from winning, then there is something wrong with the voting system.
No. 4: Lenny Dykstra, 1993
1993 was a magical year for the Philadelphia Phillies. The team was surprisingly good and made it back to the World Series for the first time in a decade.
At the forefront of the team's success was outfielder Lenny "Nails" Dykstra, who hit .305 on the year with 19 home runs, 66 RBI and 37 steals. He also led the NL with 194 hits and the majors with 143 runs scored.
Thus, you'll understand my confusion at why Dykstra was not awarded the NL MVP trophy. It was instead given to San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, who hit .336 and led the majors with 46 homers and the NL with 123 RBI.
Once again, power numbers have superseded overall value, and that is just an outrage.
No. 3: Luis Gonzalez, 2001
2001 was a career season for Luis Gonzalez. He hit .325 and hit a career-high 57 home runs while driving in a career-high 142 runs. He proved even more valuable down the stretch, as his Arizona Diamondbacks went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series that year.
Yet Gonzalez had the misfortune of having a career season the same year that Barry Bonds chased history and broke Mark McGwire's record for most home runs in a season. Bonds would finish the year with a .328 average, 73 home runs and 137 RBI.
Considering how Gonzalez was a leader all year while Bonds continually acted like a jerk as he chased the record, I think it's obvious who should have won here.
No. 2: Rogers Hornsby, 1924
In 1924, Rogers Hornsby was simply the best hitter in baseball. Not only did he hit 25 home runs with 94 RBI, but he hit an astounding .424!
That being said, you'll understand why I'm puzzled as to how he lost to Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Dazzy Vance, who went 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts.
I understand that this was before the Cy Young Award was established, but come on. How can offensive stats like that be ignored?
No. 1: Al Simmons, 1925
If there's one great hitter who should have won at least one MVP Award, it's Al Simmons. Over the course of 20 years, he hit .334 with 307 home runs and 1,827 RBI, not to mention 2,927 hits.
In 1925, just his second year in the majors, Simmons hit .387 with 24 home runs and 129 RBI and led the majors with 252 hits.
Yet because his Philadelphia Athletics did not make the World Series, the talented outfielder got the shaft, and considering who finished first, I'm surprised that fans didn't storm Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis' office.
The man who took home the AL MVP award that year was Washington Senators shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, who hit .294 with four home runs and 64 RBI. Considering how Peckinpaugh ended his career with a career average of .259, it's safe to say that he won just because his team made it to the World Series that year.
Considering how Simmons was a superior player both in 1925 and as a whole, the fact that he lost is just blasphemous.