In a victory of L.A. hype over New York logic, Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson wins the NL MVP Award‚ edging out the Mets’ Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds.
Let’s start with some raw numbers:
*Led the league. **8 shy of league lead
One factor that clearly worked against Straw was having votes siphoned off by McReynolds, despite Darryl outstripping him across the board. How can you get that many MVP votes when you’re second best on your own team? Beyond stats, Darryl pretty much carried the ’88 Mets team on his back for the first four month, excelling in his new status as full-time clean-up hitter for a team getting diminishing returns from aging superstars Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. When he tired and slumped a bit late in the season, McReynolds got hot and closed the RBI gap, but that nearly 80 point advantage Darryl had in OPS (which had been 150 points on July 31) is very telling. More significant, Straw was issued 21 intentional walks, most of them in front of McReynolds, who in turn received only three free passes while batting ahead alternately of a struggling Howard Johnson and a fading Carter who combined drove in only 114 runs.
Taking McReynolds out of the equation, Gibson had the advantage of golden-tongued blowhard Tommy Lasorda singing his praises while Darryl was undermined by one of his own when Keith Hernandez declared in September that McReynolds deserved to be named MVP. Really, Keith?
Exchange at 1989 team photo shoot:
Strawberry to Harrelson: "I only want to sit next to my real friends."
Strawberry to Hernandez: "Why you got to be saying those things about me?"
Hernandez: "Grow up, you crybaby."
Perhaps a bigger problem is the name of the award itself. What constitutes a “Most Valuable Player” is subject to interpretation from voter to voter and, apparently, from year to year. In 1987, Ozzie Smith, who led his Cardinals to a division title (and eventual pennant), lost to the Cubs’ Andre Dawson, who admittedly had a monster season--but for a last-place ball club. Apparently Ozzie’s 75 RBI, compiled while playing platinum-glove defense at a crucial position, didn’t carry as much weight as the 76 RBI amassed by defensively challenged left fielder Gibson.
Some folks will talk about intangibles and such, but all things considered I hereby cast my vote for Darryl Strawberry as NL MVP of 1988.
Happy 57th birthday to Randy Niemann, whose left-handedness enabled him to ace out the more deserving Rick Anderson for a spot on the 1986 Mets’ nine-man postseason pitching staff. He did not throw a single pitch in any of the 13 NLCS and World Series games. Niemann later served three stints with the Mets as a coach.
The late Gus Bell would have been 84 today. In the Mets very first game, and two dozen more, he played right field while Frank Thomas patrolled left. What made this arrangement unusual is that they actually traded the former to obtain the latter. You see, in November 1961 the Braves sent Thomas to the Mets for a player to be named later and—you guessed it—said player turned out to be Gus Bell who belatedly departed for Milwaukee on May 21, 1962. Bell was succeeded on the diamonds of major league baseball by a son and two grandsons—Derek, Jay and Heath. Sorry, I meant Buddy, David and Mike.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Franklin Pierce Adams came into the world on this day in 1881. The American newspaper columnist, radio commentator and poet is perhaps best known for his famous ode to a certain Cubs double play combo who's defensive acumen repeatedly thwarted Adams' beloved New York Giants. Penned in 1910, it begins "These are the saddest of possible words: Tinker to Evers to Chance” —and you can count on Ralph Kiner to find occasion to recite it during at least one Mets telecast every year.
In 1929, Johnny Evers was playing for the Boston Braves on the same team as Johnny Cooney, who, as a member of 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, played with a very young Gil Hodges—later one the original New York Mets. And of course those Mets would play their first two seasons in the Polo Grounds, the longtime home park of Adams’ now departed Giants who, back in the day, were bedeviled by Tinker and Evers and Chance.