Every year, in many sports, there is an MVP Award handed out to a deserving player. The MVP award is one of the most prestigious awards that any athlete can receive in their given sport. In baseball, the MVP trophy is awarded to two players, one player in the American League and one player in the National League. Continuing with the baseball example, the way winners are awarded is by total number of votes received by the Baseball Writers of America at the end of the season. The first MLB MVP award was given out in 1922, although prior to that, there was an acknowledgment called the Chalmers Award, and it was given to the player with the best batting average in each league.
In the NBA the MVP award has been handed out since the 1955-56 season. The winner, up until the 1979-80 season, was selected by their peers in the league. In 1980 the league decided to let sports writers and broadcasters from around America and Canada vote for the most deserving player.
While sometimes there is no question as to who deserves the wared, almost every season, it seems there is debate and some outrage over who receives the league MVP award in their respective sport. The acronym M.V.P. stands for Most Valuable Player, but there have been many debates and explanations of what the word “valuable” actually means. In some instances a player has won the award while playing for a team that finished in last place, other times there have been players to win the MVP award with statistics that are average at best, and on occasion there has been players awarded the trophy for simply being the best player on the league’s best team.
It is not always clear who should win the MVP award, but sometimes it is clear who shouldn’t have; or perhaps more importantly, who should have won it. As we get into the list of the 15 most undeserving MVP winners in sports history, keep in mind that there are factual reasons why there is debate surrounding these choices. As always feel free to leave your comments below.
15. Magic Johnson – 1990 Over Charles Barkley
During the 1989-90 NBA season, Magic Johnson squeaked by Charles Barkley for the league MVP Award. Barkley had better statistics than Magic in every relevant category, aside from assists (Magic was a point guard and Barkley was a power forward).
Barkley bested Magic by three points per game as well as six rebounds per game. Barkley also received more first place votes than Magic, 38 to 27, but in the NBA the award is not given to the player with the most first place votes, but rather an average of all votes cast.
14. Karl Malone – 1999 Over Alonzo Morning And Tim Duncan
In 1999 Karl Malone was gifted the league MVP award over two more deserving candidates. Alonzo Morning had the best season of his NBA career in the 1998-99 season, and he averaged 21 points per game, 11 rebounds, and four blocks per game, while also winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award. As for Tim Duncan, all he did was lead his team to the NBA Championship while also putting up 22 points and 11 rebounds per night with an 8.7 win share. It’s almost as if the voters wanted Karl Malone to have MVP wins, since he never captured an NBA Title.
13. Ryan Howard – 2006 Over Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols was robbed of what should have been his second straight MVP award. During the 2006 season Pujols topped Howard in wins above replacement, by the wide margin of 3.2. “The Mang” also bested Howard in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.
Howard won the MVP Award simply because he had a few more home runs and slightly more RBIs than Pujols did, but it is clear Albert had a much better overall season, and was clearly the most valuable player to his team.
12. Willie Stargell And Keith Hernandez – 1979 Over Dave Winfield
Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez were awarded a shared MVP award in 1979, while Dave Winfield was left in the cold without being recognized. Winfield led the league in wins above replacement, OPS, and slugging that season; all while also finishing ahead of Stargell and Hernandez in home runs and runs batted in. What cost Winfield the award was Stargell’s winning 10 of the possible 24 first place votes.
11. Steve Nash – 2006 Over LeBron James And Kobe Bryant
In the 2005-06 season Steve Nash won his second straight NBA MVP award – it’s arguable that Shaquille O’Neal was cheated out of the ’05 Award. In 2006 Nash beat out Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, who both were more deserving than the Suns point guard.
James particularity bested Nash in minutes, points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and win shares. Somehow the voters gave Nash the award in a landslide, as he took home 57 first place votes, while LeBron received a mere 16. Nash was unable to get his team out of the Western Conference that season, the same season that Kobe was able to drop 81 points in a single game.
10. Karl Malone – 1997 Over Michael Jordan
The 1997 MVP voters must have been tired of awarding Jordan with the League MVP, because Malone was chosen to receive it that season. Jordan not only led his team to an NBA Finals victory (again) but he was also the Finals MVP.
Jordan led the NBA in scoring, while also edging Malone in assists, and steals; Jordan also created a wide gap in win shares between he and Malone. It is not the only time the voters have given the award to a less deserving player out of fatigue from giving it to the most dominant player in the sport, but this, however, is one of the more egregious cases.
9. Dennis Eckersley – 1992 Over Kirby Puckett
To start off, in 1992 Kirby Puckett appeared in 160 games, compared to Eckersley’s 69 appearances, to those keeping score that is over two times as many games. Puckett also led the league in hits, and was second in batting average. The fact that a relief pitcher, like Eckersley can win the league MVP award while only appearing for one or two innings, in 69 games is outrageous.
“Eck” had a nice season, and was also awarded the Cy Young Award, however, Kirby Puckett played in all but one game in 1992, and had much more of a contribution to his team, as illustrated by his 7.1 wins above replacement; in comparison, Eckersley had a 2.9 wins above replacement rating.
8. Alex Rodriguez – 2003 Over Carlos Delgado
The 2003 Texas Rangers finished the season dead last in the American League West. Alex Rodriguez was their best and most valuable player, however how valuable can a player be when the team is one of the worst in the game?
Carlos Delgado, on the other hand, had an incredible season while playing for the playoff bound Blue Jays. On the surface, Rodriguez’s number are worth of MVP consideration, as he led the league in wins above replacement and home runs, however, he trailed Delgado in batting average, slugging, and OPS. It is hard to justify giving the most valuable player award to a player that could not get his team out of the bottom of the standings.
7. Peyton Manning – 2010 Over Drew Brees
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees had very similar, and amazing seasons during the 2009-2010 season. Both men led their respective teams to the top spot in their conferences, securing first round byes in the playoffs, and ultimately led their teams to face each other in a Super Bowl showdown.
So why is Brees considered as a snubbed player? Well Brees actually put up more touchdowns, more yards, and less interceptions than Manning…oh, yeah and he won the Super Bowl. To be fair, Brees actually won the Super Bowl MVP Award, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve the regular season honor as well.
6. Joe DiMaggio – 1941 Over Ted Williams
Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941, yet that was not enough to surpass Joe DiMaggio for the league MVP. DiMaggio ended the season with eight more hits than Williams, however, DiMaggio also had nearly 100 more at-bats than Williams.
With all those extra chances, DiMaggio still fell short of Williams in walks, home runs, batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS. The 10.6 wins above replacement Williams had was also more impressive than DiMaggio’s 9.1. This may be a tight race, but Ted Williams should have won the MVP that season.
5. Lou Gehrig – 1927 Over Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig dominated the competition for the MVP award in 1927, but it must be stated that Gehrig benefited largely from a now abolished rule in baseball. In 1927 the rule was, if a player had already won an MVP award, they were ineligible to win it again. With this rule in place, Babe Ruth was no longer allowed to be considered for MVP.
Ruth was named the league MVP in 1923 and never won the award again. As good as Gehrig’s season was, it was not comparable to Ruth’s season, in which he hit a then record, 60 home runs.
4. Aaron Rodgers – 2014 Over J.J. Watt
Continuing the NFL’s biased against defensive players, Aaron Rodgers was named the 2014 MVP with 31 of the 50 voters deciding he deserved the honor. Offensive players, quarterbacks especially, have long overshadowed the accomplishments of even the most talented defensive players. Not to take anything away from Rodgers, but his season was not nearly as historic as J.J. Watt’s 2014 season.
The Houston Texans lineman posted 78 total tackles, four forced fumbles, and racked up an amazing 20.5 sacks. Keep in mind that the only other person to ever put up stats even close to Watt’s was legendary Hall of Famer Chris Doleman; Watt even was able to put up five defensive touchdown during his time on the field in 2014. Rodgers had a good season for a quarterback, Watt had one of the greatest single season performances in the history of the league.
3. Derrick Rose – 2011 Over LeBron James
Derrick Rose was the beneficiary of a group of fatigued MVP voters. After winning the award two seasons in a row, and showing complete domination over the NBA, LeBron James suffered the same snub as other all-time great athletes who won too many times.
The voters were clearly looking to give the award to a new face, so they named the 22-year-old Derrick Rose as MVP. James bested Rose in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and win share.
LeBron also was named to the All-NBA first team and All-NBA Defensive first team that season. To add insult to injury the Miami Heat, led by LeBron, knocked Rose’s Bulls out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals beating them in five games.
2. Bill Russell – 1961 Over Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson
Bill Russell was gifted his third league MVP over two much more deserving players. It is very clear when you look at each players stats, that Russell was not worthy of the award. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double in 1961 with 30 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds per game, and a win share of 15.6. Wilt Chamberlain arguably had the best season in NBA history, he averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with a win share of 23.1.
Yes you read that right, Wilt averaged 50 and 25 for an entire season. Bill Russell’s numbers are respectable, but they are nothing compared to those of “The Big O” and ” Wilt The Stilt.” Russell averaged just 19 points, 23 rebounds, and four assists with a win share of 15.5.
1. Joe Gordon – 1942 Over Ted Williams
In 1942 Ted Williams was robbed of the MVP award for a second straight year, it is that simple; he was robbed. Williams won the Triple Crown in 1942, which means he led the league batting average, home runs, and RBI, yet he was not crowned with the league MVP award.
Williams outperformed Gordon in every other single offensive category outside of the ones mentioned above, including games played, at bats, hits, runs scored, walks, OBP, slugging, OPS, and wins above replacement. There is no clear explanation as to how or why Gordon was awarded 21 more first place votes than Williams.
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