We have reached the end of the twentieth century on MLB Monday, and that means while a labor stoppage curtails the offseason in the real world, we will just keep plowing along as we have been doing since March 2020. It’s business as usual here for us—and you!
So, without more blather, here is our awards analysis for the 1999 season …
1999 AL MVP: Iván Rodríguez (original), Nomar Garciaparra (revised)
Somehow, Texas Rangers catcher Iván Rodríguez (6.4 WAR) won the AL MVP vote, despite several other players being much more worthy: New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (8.0); Cleveland Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar (7.4); his teammate in right field, Manny Ramírez (7.3); Oakland Athletics 2B Randy Velarde (7.0); and Boston Red Sox SS Nomar Garciaparra (6.6).
A few things to unpack here: First, we assume Pudge was a PED user, for a variety of circumstantial reasons (not to mention his kid’s suspect stats). He wouldn’t win this award from us, anyway, and his WAR mark is way down the list here, as well. Second, we believe Manny was always using. That takes him off the discussion table here, too.
That leaves us with Jeter, Alomar, Velarde, and Nomar. Cleveland won its division by 21.5 games; Oakland finished 8 games out of first place in its division. New York won the AL East by 4 games over Boston, and the Red Sox finished 7 games ahead of the A’s for the wild-card slot. So, who is more valuable, Jeter or Nomar? Well, guess who had a negative dWAR mark (-0.1), albeit it barely? Yep, you guessed it: Jeter.
Garciaparra’s dWAR mark wasn’t much better (0.2), but at least it was positive, and we can also point out that without Jeter, the Yankees probably still would have claimed a playoff berth over Oakland. So, it’s simple deduction here that leads us to giving Nomar his second consecutive MVP Award here in this space. He hit .357 to win the batting title, adding 42 doubles, 27 HRs, 104 RBI, and a 1.022 OPS.
1999 NL MVP: Chipper Jones (original), Robin Ventura (revised)
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (6.9) wasn’t even the best Jones on his own team, as center fielder Andruw Jones (7.1) topped him in WAR. Chipper, therefore, will not be retaining this trophy that he won in the vote at the time. In fact, both Jones’ boys are out, since that’s our teammate rule here. That leaves us with three other candidates for the NL MVP.
They are Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (7.4), New York Mets 3B Robin Ventura (6.7), and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Brian Giles (6.7). But, of course, Bagwell was a negative defender (-0.7 dWAR), while the Pirates finished under .500 for the year. Meanwhile, the Mets claimed the wild-card spot by 1 game over the Cincinnati Reds, and Ventura won a Gold Glove for his 2.8 dWAR effort.
Ventura was a legendary college hitter who never dominated MLB in the same way, but this was the best season of his professional career. His dWAR was fourth in the majors, and his .908 OPS was a career high. Ventura added 32 HRs, 120 RBI, and a .301 batting average—the highest of his career, as well. Without his all-around brilliance, the Mets do not make the playoffs in 1999.
1999 AL Cy Young: Pedro Martínez (original, confirmed)
The Red Sox claimed the wild-card spot, thanks to Garciaparra and mound ace Pedro Martínez (9.8 WAR). We confirm Pedro’s AL Cy vote win here easily, as the next-best pitcher in the junior circuit finished 3.2 wins behind him. This is the second win in a row for him in our mind’s, as well, after we gave him the hardware last year, too.
His age-27 season numbers: 23-4, 2.07 ERA, and 313 Ks, for a Triple Crown. Pedro also topped the league in winning percentage (.857), WHIP (0.923), fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.8), fewest HRs allowed per 9 IP (0.4), and most Ks per 9 IP (13.2). He did all this in just 213 1/3 innings, 31 overall appearances, and 29 starts.
1999 NL Cy Young: Randy Johnson (original), Mike Hampton (revised)
We have an interesting discussion here, as Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson (9.1 WAR) topped the league and won the NL Cy vote—despite the fact his team won the NL West by 14 games. Meanwhile, Houston Astros southpaw Mike Hampton (6.7), Los Angeles Dodgers star Kevin Brown (6.2), and Atlanta Braves starter Kevin Millwood (6.2) also pitched pretty well.
In fact, the Astros won the NL Central by just 1.5 games, while the Braves only out-paced the Mets by 6.5 games in the NL East. That makes both Hampton and Millwood more valuable than Johnson. With the Dodgers finishing under .500 in the NL West, that eliminates Brown from consideration—after he’d won the last three NL Cys from us, of course (1996, 1997, 1998).
Clearly, Johnson was the best pitcher, but we’re going to give this award to Hampton, because without him, the Astros don’t win the NL Central, and they probably don’t win the wild-card spot, either. Millwood is a close second here, but in the end, Hampton also had the higher WAR mark. His numbers—22-4, 2.90 ERA, 177 Ks, and a league-best 0.5 HRs allowed per 9 IP—led Houston into the postseason.
1999 AL ROTY: Carlos Beltrán (original), Jeff Zimmerman (revised)
In a crazy season, five different AL rookies finished with at least 3.9 WAR, as Kansas City Royals center fielder Carlos Beltrán (4.7 WAR) won the vote for this award. But we’re also going to look at Seattle Mariners starter Freddy García (5.4), Chicago White Sox OF Chris Singleton (4.8), Rangers reliever Jeff Zimmerman (3.9), and Oakland starter Tim Hudson (3.9). That’s a talented group of first years!
The Mariners, the Royals, and the White Sox finished under .500 for the year, so that reduces the field. So, this comes down to Zimmerman and Hudson, and with Texas outlasting Oakland in the AL West Division, this award belongs to Zimmerman: He went 9-3 with 3 saves, a 2.36 ERA, and a 0.833 WHIP in 87 2/3 IP. Strangely, his career would only last 3 seasons, but Zimmerman deserved this award, for sure.
1999 NL ROTY: Scott Williamson (original, confirmed)
It was a thin rookie crop in the senior circuit, as Reds reliever Scott Williamson (2.6 WAR) won the NL ROTY vote. The only other real competition was Pirates starter Kris Benson (2.5), and we know that Pittsburgh finished under .500 while Cincy was one game out of the NL wild-card hunt. With a 12-7 record, 19 saves, a 2.41 ERA, and a 1.039 WHIP, Williamson did his best to pull the Reds so high.