The World Series’ Most Valuable Player Award is the only award that has a direct correlation to the teams overall ranking. You don’t necessarily have to play on a winning team to win the League’s MVP, CY Young, or Rookie of the Year Award. However, in order to win the now named Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player Award, you have to appear in a World Series game. Either playing on the team that wins the World Series or be the rare player to win the WS MVP on a losing ball club, which I call the Bobby Richardson Award.
There’s a unique history with the MVP award. It’s quite amusing to look at the list of players who have won this award since it was created in 1955. I listed some of the players who fell into exclusive categories.
There are 14 different Hall of Famers: Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax (2), Bob Gibson (2), Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson (2), Rollie Fingers, Willie Stargell, Mike Schmidt, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Paul Molitor, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. The Robinson boys were both WS MVPs for the Baltimore Orioles in the ’60’s, Brooks in ’70 and Frank in ’66.
There are seven players with the distinct honor of winning both the League Championship Series MVP and the World Series MVP in the same year: Stargell, Darrell Porter, Orel Hershiser, Liván Hernandez, Cole Hamels, David Freese and Madison Bumgarner. Carrying your team through two rounds of the postseason is an easy way to become a fan favorite.
What I find the most fascinating of all is the fact that out of the 62 years a WS MVP has been awarded, only six of the players never appeared in an All-Star Game. Those players include Pat Borders, Rick Dempsey, Steve Yaeger, Donn Clendenon, Larry Sherry and Don Larsen. Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. A 2-0 win against Sal Maglie and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
There are years like 1968 when Denny McLain steals the show during the season, going 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA, but the team’s second-best pitcher, Mickey Lolich becomes McLain when it matters most. Lolich won his first two starts in the series, and when it came to game seven, he beat two-time WS MVP, Bob Gibson, to complete the set. There are years like 2016 when the star of the year, Kris Bryant wins the MVP with 29 first-place votes, but Ben Zobrist has a vast October and in game seven becomes the Hero.
But what if there was only one MVP award, and it combined both the postseason and regular season? Sure Lolich’s three wins vs the St Louis Cardinals will still be remembered by Tigers fans, but psychologically we would think differently about the year; we would see the postseason and regular season as a whole, not separate. The combination of McLain’s historical season and average World Series would completely overshadow Lolich’s historic October and great regular season.
An individual player’s World Series success is remembered just as much as MVP success in a 162 game stretch when it’s all set and done. Gene Tenace, an average part-time catcher on the 1972 Oakland Athletics, came out of nowhere to hit four home runs vs the Reds when he only hit five all season. Ya, that’s right, it wasn’t Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson or Sal Bando who starred in Oaklands’s first ever World Series win; it was Mr. Tenace. When I think of the 1972 Athletics, sure I think about Catfish Hunter, Fingers and Jackson, but I also remember the unlikely hero who came out of the blue to destroy the Cincinnati Reds.
Same with the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. I remember Pat Borders, the catcher with a career WAR of 3.7 but broke out in October. The 1982 Cardinals featured plenty of stars, but Darrell Porter, a solid catcher who took three Missouri teams to the World Series, comes to mind right away. 1983 was Cal Ripken Jr’s MVP season, but Rick Dempsey pounded the finishing touches on the Philadelphia Phillies, and that’s what stands out. And of course, when thinking of the 1998 New York Yankees, I remember Scott Brosius, he was Mr.Clutch that series, just ask HOF’er Trevor Hoffman.
It’s a reasonable thought to ponder about the MVP and WS MVP combining. Because of course, the best player won’t always be the best in seven games, and a significant factor in winning the league MVP has to do with playing on a winning team.
A’s fans probably rather if it had been “Reggie” who carried the team in the ’72 postseason as he did in ’73. But who doesn’t love an unlikely hero? Baseball is not all about what should happen that’s what makes our sport tremendous.
The World Series MVP winner may not be the greatest player nor a household name. History shows its often not the player who contributed the most during the regular season. But the beauty of the World Series MVP is during the seven games played in mid-late October; any man can put his name in the history books and have a reason to be remembered. That’s the beauty of the World Series, and that’s the beauty of baseball.