Our MLB Monday efforts have reached a pinnacle season of sorts in baseball history, as the sport began to change even more from the landmarks of the prior year, thanks to “Commissioner” Bud Selig and his efforts to undermine the game’s integrity in the name of profiteering. This is what happens when you put the fox in charge of the hen house, of course, and the next year ahead would show just how far Selig would go to preserve and increase cash margins for his buddies in the owners’ boxes across the sport.
Yet, let us keep our focus on the field, because that’s where the joy is …
1993 AL MVP: Frank Thomas (original), John Olerud (revised)
This was a year for offense in baseball as a whole, and Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas won the MVP vote, despite his comparatively low 6.2 WAR mark … brought down by his inability to use his glove (-1.7 dWAR). Meanwhile, six other AL position players posted 6.7 WAR or more overall, and they all ended up in the Top 8 for MLB as a whole. One of them will be our replacement MVP pick, as the Big Hurt just can’t win this award such a negative defensive impact on his team.
The White Sox won the AL West by 8 games, while the Toronto Blue Jays took the AL East by 7 games. Yet, it was Seattle Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. (8.8 WAR) who topped the circuit. He was followed by Toronto first baseman John Olerud (7.8), Cleveland Indians CF Kenny Lofton (7.6), Texas Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (6.9), Baltimore Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles (6.8), and Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Greg Vaughn (6.7).
With Seattle finished 14 games behind Chicago, it’s simple to look at Olerud here at the front runner, especially since Cleveland finished under .500 for the season. The Rangers did finish second behind the White Sox, and the Orioles finished third in the AL East, coming in 10 games behind the Blue Jays. The Brewers were last in the AL East, incidentally.
It’s arguable that Toronto would not have won the AL East without Olerud, so that’s our pick here, as the 24-year old never spent a day in the minor leagues after being drafted out of Washington State University. He won the batting title (.363) while also topping his peers in the AL with 54 doubles, a .473 OBP, a 1.072 OPS, and 33 IBBs. Olerud added 24 HRs, 107 RBI, and 114 walks, too.
1993 NL MVP: Barry Bonds (original, confirmed)
At age 28, Barry Bonds signed with the San Francisco Giants in the 1992-1993 offseason, helping the team stay in the City by the Bay after the former owner had agreed to sell the team to a new owner with plans to move the organization to Florida. Bonds was hailed as the savior of San Francisco, and we know how that turned out. But the future Steroids King did have the best season of his pre-PED career in winning another MVP vote at the time.
With a 9.9-WAR effort, Bonds helped the Giants finished second in the NL West by one game, in an epic pennant race that left a 103-win team in San Francisco out of the playoffs—and perhaps spurred on the change to incorporate wild-card teams into the MLB playoffs. The next-best player in the league was Los Angeles Dodgers rookie catcher Mike Piazza (7.0). We could consider Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra (6.6) here, as the Phils took the NL East by just 3 games.
However, Bonds’ WAR edge is too much to overcome there for anyone. He was best in the league across several categories: HRs (46), RBI (123), OBP (.458), SLG (.677), OPS (1.136), TB (365), and IBB (43). He also hit a non-PED career high .336 overall, as Bonds carried a team that had won just 72 games the year before without him to within one win of the postseason. He also stole 29 bases and posted a 0.4 dWAR in left field for the Giants. This was an incredible ball player at his cleanest peak.
1993 AL Cy Young: Jack McDowell (original), Kevin Appier (revised)
The voters went for the big win total (22) in giving this award to White Sox “ace” Jack McDowell at the time, despite a mere 4.4 WAR effort. McDowell wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team: In fact, two guys on his own team were better (Alex Fernandez and Wilson Alvarez). For the record, Fernandez (5.4 WAR) finished 10th overall in MLB for pitching value, and Alvarez (4.9) was still better than McDowell. This was a truly blown vote.
That was a strong pitching staff for the division-winning White Sox, obviously, meaning all three starters had “less” value as a result. Our top candidates here were actually Kansas City Royals star Kevin Appier (9.3), Seattle Mariners veteran Mark Langston (8.5), Royals veteran David Cone (7.2), California Angels southpaw Chuck Finley (7.1), Mariners terror Randy Johnson (6.6), New York Yankees veteran Jimmy Key (6.3), and Boston Red Sox journeyman Danny Darwin (5.7).
You can see how ridiculous the vote was from this perspective, and we too have dilemmas as multiple Royals and multiple Mariners remove them all from consideration, which is a shame for Appier’s fine season. But the Angels won just 71 games, leaving Key and Darwin as the top “value” candidates. The Yankees finished 7 games behind the Blue Jays, while the Red Sox finished under .500 for the year. For the record, the Royals finished 10 games behind the White Sox.
We’d have a hard time giving this award to Key when Appier had a 3.2-point edge on him in WAR, so this is one of those times when we’re just going to use common sense in the absence of any obvious winner. Appier’s season was pretty stellar: an 18-8 record, an AL-best 2.56 ERA, and only 8 HRs allowed in 238 2/3 IP. His HR-allowed rate (0.3/9 IP) was the best in the league as well, and his WHIP (1.106) was quite good, too. Remember, he also won our AL ROTY nod in 1990, so he has a nice double now.
1993 NL Cy Young: Greg Maddux (original, confirmed)
Only two pitchers from the senior circuit finished among the Top 10 in MLB for WAR: Cincinnati Reds ace José Rijo (9.2) and Atlanta Braves star Greg Maddux (5.8). With the Braves winning the NL West by 1 game over the Giants—and the Reds finishing with just 73 victories—the voters got it right in picking Maddux for this award, but we have to give serious props to Rijo for a nearly historic season nonetheless: 14-9, 2.48 ERA, 227 Ks, and a 1.088 WHIP.
Despite Rijo’s huge WAR advantage, his team was never in contention (finishing 31 games out of first place), and that has to be a sticking point when Maddux’s presence on the Atlanta roster literally got the club into the postseason. We always want to be consistent, while sticking to common sense, logic, and our established standards here. We feel we are still doing that, since Rijo didn’t reach double digits in WAR.
Maddux’s stat line: 20-10, 2.36 ERA (NL best), 8 CGs, 267 IP, and a 1.049 WHIP. He also led the league in CGs, IP, and WHIP. There is no way the Braves outlast San Francisco in that pennant race if Maddux is any less of a pitcher, and that’s value. Maddux also had the better season, with Rijo’s value being inflated due to his team’s overall suckitude. That’s just the way it works sometimes.
1993 AL ROTY: Tim Salmon (original, confirmed)
The best rookie in the junior circuit was California Angels right fielder Tim Salmon (5.3 WAR), and he won the vote at the time, but his team won just 71 games. Were there any other good rookies who added better “value” to their teams’ seasons? Not really, as the White Sox and the Blue Jays won the two divisions by such significant margins, no rookie could have made a difference, either way. Since Salmon’s WAR mark was 2.1 higher than the next rookie who even played for a winning team, we confirm his award.
His numbers: 31 HRs, 95 RBI, 82 BBs, and a .918 OPS. He hit .283 overall to augment his other numbers and post that WAR mark, which often has been good enough historically to finish in the Top 10 MLB.
1993 NL ROTY: Mike Piazza (original, confirmed)
Southern California cornered the market on rookie hitters for this season, and Piazza was both an MVP candidate and a clear-cut ROTY winner in the National League. The Dodgers won their final game of the season to accomplish two things: First, the team finished 81-81, which is always significant, and second, Los Angeles knocked the rival Giants out of the NL playoffs with the victory. Piazza famously hit two HRs in that game, too, to clinch many special things.
Note the dejected S.F. manager in the dugout when Piazza hits his second HR to make the score, 10-1. Now we know why Dusty Baker is fine with cheating … either way, here are Piazza’s traditionals: 35 HRs, 112 RBI, .318 average, and a .932 OPS. He was 24 years old and already a man among boys.