JSF Power Rankings: Cardinals Who Finished Last in MVP Voting
Finishing Top 5 in the MVP voting is a career defining achievement. Finishing Top 10 gives a player something to brag about their entire lives. Finishing Top 25? Meh.
While Major League Baseball’s MVP ballots only have room to list the top 10 players in a given year, the final list of those receiving votes stretches out as long as it takes to recognize every name that was penciled in, even if only by a single voter.
There are years where it drags out so long that, as you scroll towards the bottom, you can feel the slow transition from “prestigious” to “maybe we don’t need to announce to the world that he only got one freaking 10th place vote”. No matter how elite it may be, you rarely hear a player’s name prefaced by “he finished 24th in the MVP voting last year”.
Fair or not, finishing dead last in MVP voting can be an oxymoron in the realm of public perception. Those who weren’t good enough to grab a single vote are spared the public declaration of how many players had better seasons in their league.
As consistently good as the Cardinals have been over the past three decades, they have sprinkled as many names in the voting as any team in the Majors, which inevitably led to some of those names finishing at the basement. Today, we celebrate those players who were good enough to get their names on an MVP ballot, but could do no better than tied for last, ranked in order of most shocking to even make the ballot.
5.) Ozzie Smith 1991
At age 36, the Wizard was still a shoe-in for the Gold Glove and a popularity fueled All Star appearance. It wasn’t a guarantee that he’d wind up on any MVP ballots, but he surprisingly popped up tied for 20th with Chris Sabo and Dennis Martinez in 1991. What’s even more shocking is that, according to Baseball-Reference.com, it was after one of his least productive defensive seasons in a career that spanned two decades.
We don’t know if it was an honor or a slap in the face that the Wizard finished 12 spots lower than teammate Lee Smith who finished 8th.
4.) Terry Pendleton 1987
In 1991, Pendleton edged out Barry Bonds for 1st place in the MVP voting as a member of the Atlanta Braves. And as noted above, Ozzie finished 20th that season. Four years earlier, the roles were reversed. Pendleton made his first appearance in the voting, tied with Bill Doran for 18th on the list. It was 16 spots lower than Ozzie Smith who finished second.
It also happened to be 15 spots below Jack Clark and 6 sports below Vince Coleman.
Needless to say, the Cardinals were pretty solid that year.
3.) Ozzie Smith 1992
For the second year in a row, Ozzie managed to sneak onto the voting list with a single 10th place vote, tying John Wetteland for 22nd place and leaving him 303 points shy of Barry Bonds. It was the final year of Ozzie’s 12-year All Star appearance streak and 13-year Gold Glove streak. The only Cardinal above him in the voting was Ray Lankford, who was finished 18th.
2.) Tom Henke 1995
In his lone season as a Cardinal, the bespectacled wonder that is Tom Henke posted 36 saves for a team that only won 62 games all season. His performance earned him a single vote and tied him with Jeff Conine for 22nd on the ballot, one vote shy of catching a guy named Pete Schourek, who I have honestly never heard of.
Henke remains an inspirational tale for children who now have evidence that, even people who look like science teachers can find their way onto MVP ballots in a professional sport.
1.) Steve Kline 2001
It’s rare but not unheard of for closers such as the aforementioned Tom Henke to snag some MVP votes in truly dominate seasons. They record the final out if all goes well, or become the goat if it doesn’t. Middle relievers? They’re normally the faceless arms in between the starters and closers that the average media member can’t pick out of a police lineup. As a result, it is particularly notable when one happens to get some support as one of the ten most valuable players in the league.
In 2001, Steve Kline made 89 appearances, put up an ERA of 1.80 and managed to squeak out one vote which put him on the list tied for 24th with Brian Giles, Vlad Guerrero, Scott Rolen and Larry Walker. Not bad company.
Kline’s consideration as one of the 10 most valuable players in the league despite only facing 303 batters the entire season was unusual, but he wasn’t alone. Another middle reliever, Felix Rodriguez, checked in four slots higher than Kline.
Let’s just say that Barry Bonds and his 73 HR’s that year weren’t exactly threatened by the competition.
While most Cardinals fans will be anxious to see how high Yadier Molina finishes in the MVP race when it’s announced tonight, we’ll be keeping our eyes on the bottom of the list to see if any of his teammates snuck in to voting.
As bizarre as it sounds, they might need a hug.