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Award Redo: 1981 A.L. MVP

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I had been looking for an excuse to do an entry on one of the most bizarre years in baseball history and the A.L. MVP pick in 1981 was controversial so might as well do a redo. 1981 featured the strike to end all strikes, until the 1994 strike trumped it of course. The players went on strike on June 12th that year over free agent compensation and did not comeback until August 9th, losing 712 games in the process.

 

Now the owners decided to come up with an idea to drum up some interest back in the sport to bring back a jaded fanbase after the strike ended: a split season. The standings as they were for games played before the strike would be considered the first half and then the second half would be the games played after the strike ended. An extra round of playoffs would be added where the division champ of the first half would meet the division champ of the second half. Now if the entire nation didn't say "What are they fucking stupid?" when the announced this, then they should have. My guess is the owners came up with this idea to try to recoup some of the revenue they lost from the strike by getting an extra round of playoffs.

 

You don't even have to be a baseball fan to see the obvious problems with the idea. First off the season restarted it meant all the division leaders thru June 11th had already clinched a playoff spot: Yankees, A's, Phillies, and Dodgers. These four teams had essentially nothing to play for beyond pride for two months as they already knew they were going to the playoffs. Doesn't really get the competitive juices flowing, you know? Second problem was the nightmare scenerio where teams who had better records overall for the entire season being left out of postseason play due the split season where otherwise they would have been division champions. Hey guess what? It happened.

 

St. Louis finished with a 59-43 record overall, 2 games better than second half N.L. East champion Montreal and 2 1/2 over first half champ Philadelphia. But it got much worse in the N.L. West. Cincinnati finished 66-42 overall, 4 games better than first half champ Los Angeles and 6 1/2 games better than second half champ Houston. The Reds had the best record in baseball in 1981 and did not go the playoffs. Let me repeat that, the team with the best record in baseball did not qualify for the postaseason. I'm surprised there wasn't riots in the streets of Cincinnati. The madness doesn't stop there as in the A.L. West, Kansas City won the second half title but finished the season 3 games under .500 overall. So we have the best team in baseball not in the playoffs and a team with a losing record in the playoffs. Almost makes you think they would have been better off shutting down the season like they would 13 years later.

 

Oh ya the A.L. MVP. Rollie Fingers won the award marking the first time a closer had won it. Already gone over this in the 1984 and 1992 redos that closers should not be winning the MVP. He would beat out Rickey Henderson in a very tight race. My only guess is that the resut was due to Fingers being the established, World Series hero while Henderson was only his second full season. It's also pretty rare for players with low homerun totals to win the award as he only hit six homeruns in the short '81 season. His teammate Tony Armas was the only other player to receive a first place vote and finished 4th overall despite being, ironically enough, the 4th best player on his own team that year.

 

Actual Results

 

1) Rollie Fingers 2) Rickey Henderson 3) Dwight Evans 4) Tony Armas 5) Eddie Murray 6) Carney Lansford 7) Dave Winfield 8) Cecil Cooper 9) Goose Gossage 10) Tom Paciorek 11) Dwayne Murphy 12) Kirk Gibson 13) Steve McCatty 14) Bobby Grich 15) Jack Morris 16) Al Oliver 17t) Buddy Bell 17th) Robin Yount 19) Bill Almon 20) Jerry Mumphrey 21t) Mike Hargrove 21t) Alan Trammell 23t) Steve Kemp 23t) Greg Luzinski 23t) Dennis Martinez 23t) Ken Singleton 27t) George Brett 27t) Dave Stieb

 

#10

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.336/.389/.439, 68 RC, 133 OPS+, .301 EQA, 32.4 VORP, 18 Win Shares

 

#9

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.294/.360/.464, 66 RC, 138 OPS+, .310 EQA, 34.7 VORP, 16 Win Shares

 

#8

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.259/.348/.493, 62 RC, 146 OPS+, .308 EQA, 29.3 VORP, 20 Win Shares

 

#7

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.326/.379/.509, 78 RC, 151 OPS+, .315 EQA, 39.6 VORP, 17 Win Shares

 

#6

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.294/.360/.534, 73 RC, 156 OPS+, .319 EQA, 40.1 VORP, 21 Win Shares

 

#5

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150 ERA+, 1.49 K/BB, 1.08 WHIP, 51.9 VORP, 18 Win Shares

 

#4

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.304/.378/.543, 72 RC, 164 OPS+, .325 EQA, 49.1 VORP, 21 Win Shares

 

#3

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.320/.363/.495, 75 RC, 151 OPS+, .316 EQA, 42.0 VORP, 22 Win Shares

 

#2

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.319/.408/.437, 76 RC, 150 OPS+, .323 EQA, 45.6 VORP, 27 Win Shares

 

#1

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.296/.415/.522, 90 RC, 163 OPS+, .333 EQA, 47.7 VORP, 26 Win Shares

 

Damn what kind of self hating A's fans am I to not give the award to RICKEY~? Also I'm taking an award away from a player who has his number retired by the A's. What have I done!?

 

Anyways as I mentioned in my entry about my first game that Evans has been very under valued over the years. Also have a couple of other good players who have been forgotten in Cecil Cooper and Bobby Grich. Hey and look STEVE McCATTY!!! What you don't remember Steve McCatty? Ya okay '81 was his only good year and he should have won the Cy Young. I guess a similar parallel would be 2003 when Esteban Loaiza blew away any other year he had but couldn't get the Cy Young. I did actually come close to putting Fingers at #10. Oh and that Tom Paciorek card is awesome.

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What would have happened if a team came in first both halves of the "season"? I'm assuming they would have had a bye, correct?

 

And regarding that Topps year that Paciorek is in -- I have one of that year featuring Danny Ainge (with the Blue Jays, I think). Didn't realize it until years later when I was in college.

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No, if a team won both halves they would have taken the team with the second best overall record. The A's came the closest to winning both halves as they finished one game back of the Royals in the second half of the season. If they had won the second half then the Rangers would have advanced to the playoffs. If they really wanted an extra round of playoffs they should have taken the 1st and 2nd place teams in each division rather than the incredibly flawed format they came up with.

 

Here's the Ainge card:

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I didn't know about that playoff system in 1981. Yeah, that's definitely messed up. If you're going to do that... just take the top 2 teams from each division at the end of season. Oy.

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Didn't the Reds have the best overall record that year, but since they didn't win either halve of the NL West they didn't make the playoffs?

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God dammit Vern, read the entry:

The Reds had the best record in baseball in 1981 and did not go the playoffs. Let me repeat that, the team with the best record in baseball did not qualify for the postseason. I'm surprised there wasn't riots in the streets of Cincinnati.

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