Just over a month ago, I was asking you, thoughtful WoWies, to take part in a little "research project." While WAR is far from a perfect metric, it has, for the time being, more than adequately provided us with a way to quantify the value that a baseball player brings to the diamond. Many times it can help you learn to appreciate some player you've never really heard of, but more importantly, WAR shows you just how absurdly good some players are on a consistent basis even if they are sometimes overshadowed by other teammates.
So, the purpose of this little thought experiment was to find examples from past MVP awards wherein someone's value was clearly misunderstood by the bungling folks responsible for handing out such hardware. The results, as you fine folks readily pointed out, are extensive... and then some. Using the historical formula, you find that time and time again, the most valuable players are buried deep in the balloting for reasons that will probably never be truly understood. Obviously, the folks who voted in nineteen dickety six had no idea that WAR even existed. Or at least they thought it was something going on in Europe.
I can't stress enough how often truly exceptional seasons have fallen by the wayside in voters' eyes. These are just a few examples, and for the sake of easy-reading, I've broken them into two parts. Everyone on this list got "jobbed" in a year prior to 1970. As a reminder, the criteria for being on this liost was a WAR greater than 8 and a 4th place finish in the MVP award or lower. Without further ado:
- Babe Ruth - 1932, 11.4 WAR, 6th place
- Lou Gehirg- 1934, 10.7 WAR, 5th place
- Stan Musial - 1944, 9.1 WAR, 4th place
- Jackie Robinson - 1951, 9.8 WAR, 6th place
- Eddie Matthews - 1955, 8.3 WAR, 18th place
- Hank Aaron - 1962, 9.2 WAR, 9th place
- Ernie Banks - 1962, 8.5 WAR, 18th place
- Willie Mays - 1964, 10.2 WAR, 6th place
- Carl Yastrzemski - 1968, 10.1 WAR, 9th place
Look at these guys. To a man they are among the finest players that baseball has ever produced, and yet in years where they were at their best, they weren't even in smelling distance for theoretically what is one of baseball's most important awards. Perhaps these players were simply so good that their greatness became old hat and taken for granted? And of course, as we move through what will be a long weekend for a bunch of us, it is fitting that Jackie Robinson shows up on this list. Robinson's career numbers often take a back seat to the sweeping change he brought to the game of baseball, but lest we forget, the guy was damn good at the game too, but his task to gain recognition and respect was even more rigorous than the great majority of his peers.
Part II will probably be going up next weekend.