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Award Redo: 1989 A.L. MVP

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Vern/Culloden asked to do a redo on this one so I'll put off the 1995 A.L. MVP for another day. 1989 is kind of an interesting year to examine, and hey my favorite sporting year, as Robin Yount won the MVP which I can remember at the time being surprised. Ruben Sierra was the hot young superstar of the moment and he broke out with a great year at age 23 and I always figured he should have won it, without every actually looking to deeply into the issue.

 

When I'm trying to find an interesting year to do a redo on the first thing I always check are Win Shares. If a player led the league in Win Shares and won the MVP he had to have been at the very least deserving of serious consideration. I had glanced at 1989 before and Yount tied with Sierra for the lead Win Shares so that's partly why I haven't bothered. But there was no clear choice that season, six different players received first place votes, and the Brewers were only a .500 team and the Rangers won 83 games. Usually in a year like this when there is no clear choice it can open the door for an undeserving player on a division winner to steal the award but that wasn't the case. It was a very weak year for offense and is the last time the A.L. homerun leader had fewer than 40 homeruns (Fred McGriff, 36).

 

The other four players to receive first place votes are an interesting group, due to none of them deserving any serious consideration. Cal Ripken finished 3rd on a the surprise team of the A.L. that season. Baltimore had come off their infamous 107 loss season and started year with a staggering 0-21 start, a record that might never be broken. The rebounded in '89 with a shocking run at the A.L. East title coming up just two games short of the Blue Jays. But even Ripken's writer friendly numbers (.264 avg, 21 hr, 84 rbi) hardly screamed MVP even in a weak year for offense.

 

Fourth and fifth place went to players on the division winning teams. George Bell received four first place votes even though his teammate McGriff had a far superior year. Dennis Eckersley was next and I don't need to repeat my argument about closers. Eckersley had a stint on the DL and only threw 58 innings although was of course his dominant self when healthy. The last player to receive a first place vote was Eck's teammate Carney Lansford. What was so interesting about this was Lansford finished 17th in the voting so he appeared on hardly any ballots at all yet someone gave him a first place vote. He actually had a very good year, not MVP calibar mind you but hey may have deserved passing consideration for a 10th place vote.

 

In a year without much offense and no clear choice among the players you would think a pitcher could emerge as the MVP and there was a very interesting candidate out there. Bret Saberhagen won the Cy Young, receiving all but one first place vote, and finished 8th in the MVP voting. With a 23-6 record, 2.16 ERA, and throw in playing on a Royals team that won 92 games I have to say I'm surprised he didn't receive more support from the writers.

 

One last note about the voting, this season had possibly the worst player (in terms of the season they had) to receive an MVP vote ever. Someone gave Mookie Wilson a 10th place vote, who had been acquired by the Blue Jays from the Mets at the trade deadline. Even a truly great player shouldn't garner an MVP vote if they were in the league for just the final two months of the season. In 247 plate appearances Wilson put up a .298/.311/.370 line. I'm sure he probably had a couple of "clutch" hits down the stretch which I'm assuming swayed some idiot writer to give him a spot on his ballot.

 

Actual Results

 

1) Robin Yount 2) Ruben Sierra 3) Cal Ripken 4) George Bell 5) Dennis Eckersley 6) Fred McGriff 7) Kirby Puckett 8) Bret Saberhagen 9) Rickey Henderson 10) Bo Jackson 11) Dave Parker 12) Gregg Olson 13) Bert Blyleven 14) Dave Stewart 15) Don Mattingly 16) Joe Carter 17) Carney Lansford 18) Nick Esasky 19) Tony Fernandez 20) Mike Moore 21t) Wade Boggs 21t) Steve Sax 23t) Alvin Davis 23t) Nolan Ryan 25t) Chilli Davis 25t) Mark McGwire 25t) Mookie Wilson

 

#10

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140 ERA+, 2.98 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP, 65.0 VORP, 22 Win Shares

 

#9

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.315/.379/.439, 103 RC, 132 OPS+, .307 EQA, 53.7 VORP, 27 Win Shares

 

#8

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.305/.424/.496, 104 RC, 156 OPS+, .335 EQA, 51.8 VORP, 26 Win Shares

 

#7

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.339/.379/.465, 112 RC, 131 OPS+, .306 EQA, 59.0 VORP, 27 Win Shares

 

#6

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.274/.411/.399, 89 RC, 133 OPS+, .325 EQA, 50.9 VORP, 30 Win Shares

 

#5

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.330/.430/.449, 120 RC, 143 OPS+, .324 EQA, 62.5 VORP, 29 Win Shares

 

#4

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.269/.399/.525, 115 RC, 161 OPS+, .335 EQA, 53.9 VORP, 30 Win Shares

 

#3

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.306/.347/.543, 120 RC, 146 OPS+, .314 EQA, 58.8 VORP, 34 Win Shares

 

#2

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178 ERA+, 4.49 K/BB, 0.96 WHIP, 79.5 VORP, 28 Win Shares

 

#1

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.318/.384/.511, 120 RC, 152 OPS+, .326 EQA, 75.8 VORP, 34 Win Shares

 

There you have it, Robin Yount was the best choice and in a year with no run away winner the writers actually picked the right guy. Any of the Top 4 would have been fine choices and I shuffled 2 thru 4 a couple of times before settling on it.

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