There’s a certain bitter irony among our 2002 newbies. Think back to 1987, the year of the rabbit ball. In two of the more historically controversial MVP votes, a great shortstop lost out in favor of a right fielder with superficially better stats.
In the NL, 2002 newbie Andre Dawson blasted 49 homers and drove in 137 in 153 games. For the last-place Cubs. He walked only 25 times unintentionally, scored a mere 90 runs, and his triple-slash line of 287/328/568 resulted in good but far from great 130 OPS+. He added no value on the bases on in the field. Fellow 2002 newbie Ozzie Smith finished a distant second in the voting. Smith failed to homer and drove in 75 runs in 158 games. For the first-place Cardinals. He walked 86 times unintentionally, scored 104 runs, and his triple-slash line of 303/392/383 resulted in a 105 OPS+. Smith added substantial value on the bases and in the field. WAR today tells us that Smith was probably 2.5 wins more valuable than Dawson. Tony Gwynn or Eric Davis probably deserved the MVP, but Smith was a strong candidate for those who prefer up-the-middle guys and players on contending teams.
In the AL, George Bell hit 47 roundtrips and drove in 134 in 15 games. For the second place Blue Jays. He walked only 30 times unintentionally, and his triple-slash line of 308/352/605 resulted in a very nice 146 OPS+…which ranked 7th in the league. He added a smidgen of value on the bases and in the field. In a closer vote, fellow 2002 newbie Alan Trammell finished second. He got hosed. Trammell hit 28 homers and drove in 105 runs in 151 games. For the first-place Tigers. He walked 52 times unintentionally, and his triple-slash line of 343/402/551 resulted in a 155 OPS+. Trammell added a little value on the bases. WAR tells us today that Trammell was worth about 3.5 wins more than Bell. Trammell, Wade Boggs, or Roger Clemens probably deserved the MVP, but Trammell was an up-the-middle guy on a first-place team.
It’s much more likely that Trammell or Smith wins the MVP in today’s world. Regardless of WAR, many (maybe even most) writers now have a working command of the importance of walks, defense, OPS+, and park effects. Regardless, baseball is funny in how it gives us these coincidental moments of retrospection, a nice part of what makes fandom fun.
Too bad George Bell wasn’t on this ballot too.
F= Hall of Fame member
M = Hall of Merit member
S = Hall of Stats member
NEW FOR 2002
Andre Dawson (F,M,S)
Ozzie Smith (F,M,S)
Alan Trammell (M,S)