2010 World Series: Power Ranking the Last 25 World Series MVPs
With the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers set to begin the 2010 World Series, we couldn’t help but allow our minds to drift to all things World Series related.
Great pitching, late-inning hits, walk-off homers—all of it is great on the World Series stage.
Most semi-serious to serious baseball fans can name the World Series winners from the last 10 years. Some could even name them from the last 20 years. If you can name beyond that, I think you have too much time on your hands.
But here’s a more difficult task: How many World Series MVPs can you remember?
It would be impressive if you could remember the last five. Hell, I had trouble thinking of last year’s until I looked it up.
Since MVPs are largely forgotten, we thought it would be fun to take a look at World Series MVPs from the last 25 years.
How are we going to do that? Power rankings.
We took the past 25 seasons (1985-2009) and ranked the MVPs in some loose order—in other words, don’t get too caught up on who is No. 11 and who is No. 16. They are all MVPs and all worthy of the list.
One clarifying note: Due to a work stoppage, there was no World Series in 1994 and therefore no MVP.
But there was one year on the list that had co-MVPs. So instead of taking the list back to 1984 (sorry, Alan Trammell) we decided to use those co-MVPs as two in order to fill the gap from ’94.
One last thing to ponder: Pitching is the headliner of this year’s World Series, beginning with Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. For what it’s worth, out of the last 25 MVPs, 14 were pitchers. Will this year make it 15-of-26?
On to the power rankings…
25. Livan Hernandez, 1997
Hernandez started two games for the Florida Marlins and beat the Cleveland Indians in both starts.
In 13.2 innings, Hernandez allowed eight earned runs while striking out seven.
It took the Marlins only five seasons to win the franchise’s first title.
Hernandez won Games 1 and 5 on his way to earning MVP honors. But he didn’t turn in the most-memorable performance of the series.
What fans will remember about this World Series is Edgar Renteria’s single in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 to drive in Craig Counsell and bring a ring to South Florida.
24. David Eckstein, 2006
Undersized youngsters with dreams of playing big league ball—and succeeding—need not look any further than Eckstein.
After winning one title with the Angels in 2002, Eckstein helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in five games by hitting .364 with eight hits and four RBI in the series.
Many will remember Detroit’s pitchers seemingly forgetting how to execute PFPs (pitchers fielding practice). But it was Eckstein and the Cardinals who earned the first World Series title for the fans of St. Louis since 1982.
23. Mike Lowell, 2007
This was supposed to be the Colorado Rockies year. We even did our best to rename the whole month of October, “Rocktober.”
It was a cute, fun story until the Rockies ran into the Goliath of New England.
The Red Sox swept Colorado for their second title of the decade, and Lowell hit .400 and drove in four runs in the series to win the MVP.
22. Frank Viola, 1987
The Minnesota Twins have only three World Series titles in franchise history, and if you were asked to name one of the three, there’s a 98.76-percent chance that you aren’t picking the ’87 Twinkies. You’re probably picking the Minnesota team of four years later (more on that to come).
Viola led the Twins to a title over the St. Louis Cardinals by going 2-1 in three starts, including a series-clinching victory in Game 7.
Viola allowed eight runs in 19.1 innings while striking out 16, but only two of those runs came in eight strong innings in the series’ final game.
21. Manny Ramirez, 2004
Ah, yes, the most iconic World Series ever.
After coming down from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to officially end the “Curse of the Bambino.”
In those four games, Ramirez hit .412 with four RBIs.
Ramirez earned the MVP for an outstanding series. But this World Series will be remembered for its history and for the collective effort of a Boston team that waited 86 stinking years to bring a championship banner to Fenway Park.
20. Jermaine Dye, 2005
The Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros in the same World Series together?
Yes, 2005 was an odd year. But it was a great one for Dye.
Dye hit .438 in a four-game romping of the Astros and helped carry Chicago to its first world championship since 1917.
Dye won’t make the Hall of Fame. He won’t be remembered as one of the best outfielders of his era.
But his 325 homers to date (Dye didn’t play in 2010, but hasn’t officially retired) and World Series MVP made for a special career.
19. Pat Borders, 1992
Borders earned MVP honors in the first year of a two-year championship run for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Cito Gaston’s Blue Jays beat Bobby Cox’s Braves in six games to earn the title.
Borders, Toronto’s catcher, collected nine hits and three RBI in the series.
18. Cole Hamels, 2008
Hamels doesn’t have the best numbers of any starting pitcher on this list. But he was awfully good in 2008 while leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title over the surprising Tampa Bay Rays.
In two starts, Hamels went 1-0 and struck out eight in 13 innings while allowing only four earned runs.
Hamels had dominated the entire postseason for the Phillies. And it was his World Series performance that forced the baseball world to officially recognize him as one of the best starting pitchers in the sport.
17. Ray Knight, 1986
The Amazin’ Mets of ’86 are partly remembered for a man who didn’t even play in New York: Boston’s Bill Buckner and the infamous ball up the first-base line that went between his legs and sent the series to Game 7.
The call by Vin Scully is one of the greatest ever, and Ray Knight was the man that crossed home plate on Buckner’s error to score the winning run.
To earn the MVP, Knight hit .391 with five RBI in the series.
16. Mariano Rivera, 1999
Our first relief pitcher on the list.
Rivera could be higher on the list and I wouldn’t argue. But it was tough to justify putting a relief pitcher over dominant starting pitchers and position players who played every day.
Regardless, Rivera made three appearances in the ’99 Fall Classic as the New York Yankees swept the Atlanta Braves.
In those three games, Rivera posted a 1-0 record with two saves.
He struck out three in 4.2-scoreless innings of work, a small slice of his resume that suggests he is the best postseason pitcher ever.
15. Tom Glavine, 1995
Anti-Bobby Cox people—if you can even imagine those types exist—will try to devalue his career by pointing out that he won only one World Series with all the talent he had in Atlanta.
The one World Series Cox did win was delivered, in part, by Tom Glavine.
Glavine went 2-0 in two starts, allowing only two earned runs while striking out 11.
The MVP didn’t start Game 1—that honor belonged to some slouch named Maddux. But he won the clinching Game 6.
14. Dave Stewart, 1989
Unfortunately, the ’89 World Series won’t ever be remembered for the world-champion Oakland A’s or the National League-champion San Francisco Giants.
A devastating earthquake that struck before Game 3 suspended play for 10 days and put the games in perspective.
The A’s would sweep the Giants, but baseball was an afterthought.
In those four games however, Stewart pitched 16 innings over two starts, allowing three earned runs and striking out 14.
13. Scott Brosius, 1998
The New York Yankees had a lot of good teams in their late-90s, early-2000s dynasty. But the best one may have been the ’98 squad that won 114 games in the regular season and then swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
Yes, the usual Yankees played a role.
Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, et al, all played a part.
But it was a third baseman named Scott Brosius that provided the final glue to the championship puzzle.
Brosius earned the MVP by hitting .471 in four games with six RBI.
12. John Wetteland, 1996
Oh, you thought Rivera was the highest-ranking reliever on the list? Nope.
John Wetteland turned in quite a productive World Series in ’96, saving four games in five appearances while allowing only one earned run in 4.1 innings.
Who set up for Mr. Wetteland? His successor, Mr. Rivera.
What a bullpen.
11. Josh Beckett, 2003
Beckett went 1-1 in two starts in the ’03 World Series.
Beckett’s numbers in those two games speak for themselves: 16.1 innings, 19 strikeouts, two runs.
Beckett could be even higher on this list, but he’s in my top 11 because of what he did in Game 6.
A 23-year-old confident Texan took the ball in the Bronx and fired a complete game to win the World Series and shun a stadium full of New Yorkers.
Beckett was dominant in his performance, yes. But he was much more than that.
He was defiant in his actions, confrontational in his swagger.
On this night, Beckett owned the Yankee Stadium stage. And how many under-25 opponents have done that, let alone done it in the World Series?
10. Bret Saberhagen, 1985
We made it to the top 10.
You’re probably expecting Jeter or someone of that ilk, but instead you get Saberhagen? And the Kansas City Royals?
Saberhagen had an epic World Series for Kansas City.
He beat the St. Louis Cardinals twice—both complete games, with the final one being a complete game shutout in Game 7—to give the Royals their only World Series title in franchise history.
For the series, Saberhagen pitched 18 innings and allowed only one earned run.
9. Jose Rijo, 1990
The good ol' Lou Piniella Cincinnati Reds swept Tony La Russa’s Oakland A’s in the ’90 World Series, and Jose Rijo won the MVP.
Rijo won two games, allowing one run in 15 innings. His second win was a two-hitter in Game 4.
And Rijo had a supporting role in the 2008 film, Sugar.
So, umm, yeah that’s why he’s here.
8. Derek Jeter, 2000
Jeter finds himself at No. 8 on this list for his part in the Yankees “Subway Series” win over the New York Mets in 2000.
The Yanks won the title in five games and Jeter collected nine hits, including two home runs.
A World Series MVP would make a lot of people’s careers. For Jeter? Eh, it’s a nice addition to the trophy collection.
That’s what happens when your career leaves you as the all-time hits leader in Yankees history.
Those dynasty years in the Bronx feel like yesterday.
7. Paul Molitor, 1993
Toronto Blue Jays. 1993 World Series. What comes to mind?
Of course, it’s Joe Carter and his walk-off home run to win the title.
But it was Molitor who took the MVP award by hitting a ridiculous .500 with 8 RBI.
6. Orel Hirshiser, 1988
Tommy Lasorda’s “Bulldog.”
Hershiser threw two complete games and allowed two runs in 18 innings.
He’s here because he capped one of the most memorable World Series ever.
It began with Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 and ended with Hershiser falling to his knee in celebration in Game 5.
5. Troy Glaus, 2002
Glaus probably wasn’t on your short-list of top-five World Series MVPs in the last 25 years. But he made it because he put the Anaheim Angels on his back and carried them to their first-ever World Series title.
Glaus hit .385 for the series and smashed three home runs.
He produced clutch hit after clutch hit. And he was the thunder in the middle of the Angels order as they fought back in Game 6 and won it behind rookie John Lackey in Game 7.
Glaus’ career has since been derailed by injuries, but he always has that magical October to look back to.
4. Hideki Matsui, 2009
Yeah, this name surprised me too. But, hell, look at the numbers.
Matsui hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBI in last year’s World Series as the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies.
A couple other cool tidbits from Matsui’s MVP campaign: He’s the first Japanese-born player and first full-time designated hitter to ever win a World Series MVP.
3. Curt Schilling, 2001
We have reached the co-MVPs. These next two guys could be in reverse order. It doesn’t really matter.
Schilling made three starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ’01 World Series and dominated the New York Yankees.
In 21.1 innings, Schilling struck out 26 while allowing only four runs.
What’s more impressive about that World Series was that these two pitchers led Arizona past New York in a year when the entire nation was rooting for the Yankees, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The series win officially ended the Yankee mystique.
2. Randy Johnson, 2001
Three appearances, two starts, one complete-game shutout, two earned runs and 19 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
Johnson relieved Schilling in Game 7 after starting Game 6, and he was the bridge to Arizona’s title.
Not much more to say. Sheer dominance.
1. Jack Morris, 1991
How do you not give the No. 1 spot to this guy?
Morris went 2-0 in three starts with one shutout and only allowed three runs in 23 innings.
But, undoubtedly, it was his epic Game 7 duel with John Smoltz that, for my money, is the greatest Game 7 ever played.
Morris beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings. Smoltz will be remembered as the “loser” of one of the most remarkable baseball games to hit ESPN Classic.
I’ve seen this game probably six times on tape, and every time I come by it on TV, I have to stop and watch. Have to.
If you love pitching, baseball or just great theater, Jack Morris and John Smoltz turned in the ultimate performances.
Morris gets the MVP simply because Minnesota won.
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