In kkk's most recent entry on K-Mart customer service he made mention of how he had thought Harold Baines didn't get enough credit as a player. Now Baines best season was probably 1984 when he was still an everyday outfielder. Now he was never a serious MVP cadidate and '84 was no different but the MVP voting that year was quite interesting. For one a closer won it in Willie Hernandez of the Tigers. A closer winning an MVP should always raise a few eyebrows as it's pretty much impossible for them to equal the value of an everyday player.
Now Hernandez was far from your one inning and done closers of today. He pitched 140 innings that year which is a ton of innings for someone who didn't make a single start. He was dominating with 112 strikeouts to 36 walks, a 1.92 ERA, and ridiculous 0.94 WHIP. Obviously since he won the MVP, he also won the Cy Young. Now a closer winning a Cy Young is something that probably shouldn't happen too often but can happen and be a legitimate choice. In 1984 there simply wasn't starter with numbers (at least the standard ones) that really jumped out and when a closer has a year like Hernandez did under those circumstances it's not surprising he won the Cy Young. Dave Steib would have been the better choice but of course the writers overlooked him due to only having 16 wins (not his fault). But Hernandez was not a bad choice at all for winning the Cy Young.
Now in 1984 the A.L. was a one team league: Detroit Tigers. They started the year 30-5 and basically it was all over after that as the second place Blue Jays finished 15 games back, who had the second best record in the league overall. Really it's hard to blame the writers for wanting to give a Tiger the MVP that year when they were so much better than the competition. But was Hernandez the right Tiger? Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell finished 6th and 9th in the voting repsectively and as I mentioned before a closer can't match the value of a star everyday player like those two.
But there was something else that was interesting about the '84 A.L. MVP voting, it was who finished 2nd: Kent Hrbek. The Twins that year finished 81-81 and Hrbek didn't crack the Top 5 of any writer favored offensive categories (AVG, HR, RBI). How could a first baseman on the Twins get more votes than a household name like Eddie Murray and a rising star in the media capital of the world in Don Matttingly who played the same position? You would think Hrbek would get overshadowed. This really puzzled me but when you look at the A.L. West that year in conjuction with the Tigers dominance of the East it starts to make "sense" how the writers voted Hrbek that high. See since the Tigers great start eliminated any chance of a pennant race all the attenion went to the West. Now the race in the West was almost as bad as the race in the N.L. West in 2005. The Royals would win the division at 84-78 with the Twins and Angels tied for second just three games back at .500. Royals would have finished 6th in the East with that record. The West was so bad that the last place Rangers were closer to first than the second place Blue Jays were in the East to Tigers. The Twins were neck and neck with the Royals and Angels going into the final couple of weeks of the season when the MVP voting was going on. The Twins would lose six straight to end the season but it was the added attention that Hrbek received and the lack of a race of the East that nearly propelled him to the MVP.
So should have a Tigers position player won the MVP? Should one of the big name first basemen with better numbers than Hrbek have won the award? Or was it someone who received almost no support at all for the award? Now I'll tell you...if your still reading.
For reference here is the actual order of finish in '84:
1) Willie Hernandez 2) Kent Hrbek 3) Dan Quissenberry 4) Eddie Murray 5) Don Mattingly 6) Kirk Gibson 7) Tony Armas 8) Dave Winfield 9) Alan Trammell 10) Willie Wilson 11) Dwight Evans 12) Alvin Davis 13t) Harold Baines 13t) Dave Kingman 13t) Jim Rice 16t) Lance Parrish 16t) Willie Upshaw 18) Brian Downing 19t) Steve Balboni 19t) George Bell 19t) Andre Thorton 22t) Buddy Bell 22t) Lloyd Moseby 22t) Dave Steib 25t) Juan Beniquez 25t) Mike Boddicker 27t) Doyle Alexander 27t) Cal Ripken
.284/.391/.497, 110 RC, 146 OPS+, .318 EQA, 59.5 VORP, 27 Win Shares
.293/.399/.458, 91 RC, 145 OPS+, .327 EQA, 60.6 VORP, 28 Win Shares
130 ERA+, 2.25 K/BB, 1.14 WHIP, 74.3 VORP, 25 Win Shares
.340/.393/.515, 116 RC, 154 OPS+, .328 EQA, 61.5 VORP, 26 Win Shares
.298/.361/.441, 101 RC, 126 OPS+, .302 EQA, 69.1 VORP, 27 Win Shares
.295/.388/.532, 130 RC, 147 OPS+, .321 EQA, 63.0 VORP, 29 Win Shares
.314/.382/.468, 99 RC, 136 OPS+, .308 EQA, 66.4 VORP, 29 Win Shares
.343/.381/.537, 125 RC, 156 OPS+, .328 EQA, 72.7 VORP, 29 Win Shares
.306/.410/.509, 123 RC, 156 OPS+, .335 EQA, 75.8 VORP, 33 Win Shares
.304/.374/.510, 122 RC, 145 OPS+, .318 EQA, 92.2 VORP, 37 Win Shares
As you see in the actual results, Ripken is the last name listed. He received just a single a 10th place vote. It wasn't like he was some young player no one had heard of yet, he won the the MVP the year before! But what happens to a lot MVP winners who were on the top team in their league, like the Orioles were in '83, and the following year the team isn't as good the perceived value of that MVP drops like a rock. Really him, Murray, Mattingly, Trammell, or the always overlooked Evans would have made fine choices. Hrbek just missed the Top 10 and Hernandez may have cracked the Top 15 if I extended the list that far but neither were deserving as much support as they received. As you'll see I did include a pitcher in Steib and two players in Yount and RICKEY~ who didn't receive a single vote in '84. The legendary Juan Beniquez, who had 382 plate apperances, received more support than Ripken, Yount, and Henderson. That's pretty bad.