Welcome to 2001, a baseball odyssey, on MLB Monday, and we have yet another crazy season to assess through postmodern lenses. Some people may not agree with what we are doing here, but that’s fine; we do it our way in our little corner of the ‘verse. They can do it their way wherever else they want to do it.
So, on with our show … Also Sprach Zarathustra!
2001 AL MVP: Ichiro Suzuki (original); Robert Alomar (revised)
This is a fine mess here as the top players were Oakland Athletics first baseman Jason Giambi (9.2 WAR), Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone (8.8), Texas Rangers shortstop Álex Rodríguez (8.3), Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (7.7), and Cleveland Indians 2B Roberto Alomar (7.3). Suzuki won the vote, but we’re giving the hardware to Alomar.
Why? Well, Giambi and Rodríguez were PED users, and the two Seattle teammates cancel each other out, as the Mariners won a record 116 games, finishing 14 games ahead of the A’s in the AL West. Alomar gets “lucky” here, as his team won the AL Central by 6 games—and his dWAR came out to a 0.1 mark. Imagine if he had been a negative defender? We’d have had to dive deeper here. Phew!
This is the second AL MVP we’ve given to Alomar, and here are his numbers at age 33—his last truly competent MLB season: 20 HRs, 100 RBI, 30 SBs, .336 BA, and a .956 OPS. Alomar didn’t lead the league in any categories, but his all-around game was stellar, nonetheless.
2001 NL MVP: Barry Bonds (original), Albert Pujols (revised)
This award analysis is even more messy with this top-5 list: San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds (11.9 WAR), Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa (10.3), Arizona Diamondbacks LF Luis Gonzalez (7.9), Colorado Rockies RF Larry Walker (7.8), and Rox 1B Todd Helton (7.8). The first three guys are cheaters as Gonzalez was named in the Mitchell Report, and Colorado won just 73 games.
The Rockies teammates cancel each other out, so where do we go from here? The next five position players on the list are Los Angeles Dodgers RF Shawn Green (7.0), Giants SS Rich Aurilia (6.7), St. Louis Cardinals utility man Albert Pujols (6.6), Florida Marlins LF Cliff Floyd (6.6), and Houston Astros outfielder Lance Berkman (6.5). Where does this leave us?
The Dodgers finished 6 games out in the NL West, while Aurilia was named on at least one leaked list identifying PED users from this era. The Cards and the ‘Stros tied for the NL Central Division lead, while the Fish won just 76 times. And while Berkman was a negative defender (-0.8 dWAR), guess what? Pujols was a dead-neutral defender (0.0 dWAR), so he claims this award in his rookie season, surprisingly.
While some people have suspected Pujols of PED use, we do not: The only person to publicly accuse him is former MLB slugger Jack Clark, and he’s a dubious character at best. We suspect Pujols will be winning more of these in the next 10 seasons or so, also. His numbers in his rookie season? 47 doubles, 37 HRs, 130 RBI, .329 BA, and a 1.013 OPS. Not bad for an age-21 kid from the Dominican Republic.
2001 AL Cy Young: Rogers Clemens (original), Mike Mussina (revised)
More slogging here, too, as the best 5 pitchers in the junior circuit were New York Yankees veteran Mike Mussina (7.1 WAR), Minnesota Twins youngster Joe Mays (6.6), Chicago White Sox phenom Mark Buehrle (6.0), Yankees cheater Roger Clemens (5.7), and Oakland southpaw Mark Mulder (5.6). Somehow, Clemens won the vote, despite not even being the best starter on his own team.
With Clemens out, though, due to PEDs, that does open the door for Mussina, but the Yankees won the AL East by 13.5 games, so his value takes a hit. The Twins finished 6 games out in the AL Central, while the Pale Hose were 2 games behind Minnesota. The A’s won the wild-card spot with 17 games to spare, which means—generally—Mussina had the most value in this comparative analysis.
Oakland actually won 7 more games than New York did, too, so Mussina’s value is superior to Mulder’s on a few levels. Like Alomar, the Moose also won this award from us in 1992, and it validates his very underrated career. His numbers—17-11, 3.15 ERA, 3 SOs, 214 Ks, and a 1.067 WHIP in 228 2/3 IP—were very strong across the board, as the Yankees went on to win their fourth straight AL pennant.
2001 NL Cy Young: Randy Johnson (original, confirmed)
Finally, we have a simple process here, with these top-5 pitchers in the senior circuit: Arizona Diamondbacks superstar Randy Johnson (10.1 WAR), his teammate Curt Schilling (8.8), Montréal Expos phenom Javier Vázquez (5.7), Houston Astros youngster Wade Miller (5.3), and Atlanta Braves legend Greg Maddux (5.2). Johnson won the vote, but normally teammates would cancel each other out.
Yet Johnson’s season meets our historical threshold with double-digit WAR, so he gets to keep his trophy. He previously won two AL Cy Young nods from us in 1995 and 1997, by the way, although this is his first NL Cy Young acknowledgment from us. His numbers: 21-6, 2.49 ERA, 372 Ks, 1.009 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, and 13.6 K/9. All those numbers led the league except the win total, as Arizona won its division.
2001 AL ROTY: Ichiro Suzuki (original); CC Sabathia (revised)
Ichiro somehow won the “Rookie” of the Year Award, despite his 10 seasons of professional experience in Japan. We’re not legitimizing this vote. The two real candidates for this award were Anaheim Angels middle infielder David Eckstein (4.2 WAR) and Cleveland starter CC Sabathia (2.8). The Angels won just 75 games, while the Indians won the AL Central by 6 games. So, we’re giving this award to Sabathia.
He wasn’t dominant, but CC posted 17 victories in 33 starts while striking out 171 batters in 180 1/3 IP. Sabathia also led the AL in allowing just 7.4 H/9. It was a very solid season from a future All Star.
2001 NL ROTY: Albert Pujols (original, confirmed)
See above. For the record, the next-best rookies were Houston starter Roy Oswalt (4.8 WAR), Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (2.4), and Cincinnati Reds OF Adam Dunn (2.2). Oswalt went 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA, while Rollins topped the NL in steals (46). Dunn posted a .948 OPS in 66 games. This was a good group of rookies, but Pujols was the best of the bunch.