For our last MLB Monday piece of the 2021 calendar year, we have arrived in 2002 … and after last season’s mess, we only hope this award analysis goes much more smoothly. We doubt it will, though, as it was a sign of the times in sport, for sure, and it still is—no matter which sport you’re examining.
We will make the resolution here and now to be more cheerful in 2022, but for professional baseball in North America? That may be difficult …
2002 AL MVP: Miguel Tejada (original), Nomar Garciaparra (revised)
The four best position players in the league were Texas Rangers shortstop Álex Rodríguez (8.8 WAR), Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome (7.4), New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi (7.1), and Boston Red Sox SS Nomar Garciaparra (6.8). The vote at the time went to Oakland Athletics SS Miguel Tejada (5.7), however.
Three of these players are confirmed PED users, however, so that leaves us with Thome and Nomar. The Indiana finished under .500, and while the Red Sox won 93 games, they missed out on the wild-card playoff spot by 6 games. That is going to have to be good enough for us, since if we dig any deeper, we’re getting desperate. Oh, and Thome also posted a -1.7 dWAR, so there’s that.
Thus Garciaparra wins a fourth AL MVP nod from us, in a five-year span now, which is shocking: His offense (56 doubles, 24 HRs, 120 RBI, .310 BA, .880 OPS) almost matched his defense (2.5 dWAR, second highest in MLB) for excellence. Nomar is proving himself to be one of the most underrated players in the history of the sport.
2002 NL MVP: Barry Bonds (original), Jeff Kent (revised)
Looking at the best six position players, we find this group: San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds (11.7 WAR), Giants second baseman Jeff Kent (7.1), Montréal Expos right fielder Vladimir Guerrero (7.1), Los Angeles Dodgers RF Shawn Green (6.9), St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds (6.7), and Atlanta Braves CF Andruw Jones (6.5). With Bonds out for cheating, Kent can stay in, ironically.
The Giants edged the Dodgers by 3 games for the wild-card slot, so Kent is good, while Green is out. The Expos won 83 games but were way out of playoff contention, meaning adieu to Guerrero. The Cards won the NL Central by 13 games, which means Edmonds’ value falls below Kent’s value (twice). And the Braves won the NL East by 19 games, making this award truly Kent’s this time. Again, irony!
Yes, the issue here is that the Giants were aided by Bonds’ cheating, and Kent was, too: both directly and indirectly. But we cannot do anything about that. Kent wins this MVP nod from us with the following stat line: 37 HRs, 108 RBI, .313 BA, .933 OPS, and 0.6 dWAR. At age 34, this was the last year of his prime. This would really burn Barroid, too, knowing Kent was more worthy of the MVP.
2002 AL Cy Young: Barry Zito (original), Jamie Moyer (revised)
There were six contenders for the AL Cy, including the vote winner, Oakland southpaw Barry Zito (7.2 WAR), who won our nod for 2000 AL ROTY, if you recall. His rivals in this space are Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (7.3), Red Sox converted reliever Derek Lowe (7.2), A’s righty Tim Hudson (6.9), Boston legend Pedro Martínez (6.5), and Seattle Mariners grinder Jamie Moyer (5.6).
You know the rules here. The Boston and Oakland duos are out, but can we really give this award to Halladay or Moyer? Yes, we can. With the Blue Jays finishing under .500 and the Mariners posting the same 93 victories that the Red Sox did, we do give this nod, surprisingly, to Moyer—at age 39. His season really doesn’t jump off the stat page, but that doesn’t matter, really.
The journeyman lefty won just 13 games with a 3.32 ERA, but he did throw four complete games (including two shutouts) while striking out 147 batters and posting a 1.075 WHIP. Generally, his WAR is kind of low, but it was 10th overall in MLB for the season—so not that bad, really. It is what it is, and it would have been nice if voters at the time recognized his achievement(s).
2002 NL Cy Young: Randy Johnson (original, confirmed)
With Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson posting 10.7 WAR for a division winner, we will confirm his vote win here, readily, even though for the second season in a row, the next best was a teammate: Curt Schilling (8.6). Others worth mentioning? Expos midseason acquisition Bartolo Colon (7.1) and Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt (7.0). This is the Big Unit’s fourth Cy Young from us, by the way.
His stats this time around, for another historic season of note: 24-5, 2.32 ERA, 8 CGs, 260 IP, and 334 Ks. All those numbers led the league, while his 1.031 WHIP and 4 SOs were pretty good, too. Johnson was 38 years old at the time, and while that would normally make us raise a mental eyebrow or two, it’s just not the case here. He was a freak of nature, and we all knew this a decade before 2002.
2002 AL ROTY: Eric Hinske (original), Mark Ellis (revised)
We have many candidates for this trophy, led by the vote winner, Blue Jays 3B Eric Hinske (4.0 WAR). He was followed by Baltimore Orioles starter Rodrigo López (3.7), Minnesota Twins outfielder Bobby Kielty (2.7), Oakland 2B Mark Ellis (2.7), and Twins RF Dustan Mohr (2.1). But let’s break it down, starting with the elimination of the Minnesota duo … and the fact both Toronto and Baltimore posted losing records.
That leaves us with Ellis and his 2.1 dWAR in just 98 games—which put him fifth in MLB overall. His .753 OPS was above average (103 OPS+) for his position, and Ellis also posted a solid .359 OBP while playing a bit at short and third, too. The A’s won the AL West by 4 games over the Anaheim Angels, so maybe they’d have won the division anyway without Ellis, but he’s the best choice here.
2002 NL ROTY: Jason Jennings (original), Damian Moss (revised)
Four rookies stood out in the senior circuit: Cincinnati Reds OF Austin Kearns (4.1 WAR), Chicago Cubs starter Mark Pryor (3.2), Colorado Rockies SP Jason Jennings (2.7), and Atlanta hurler Damian Moss (2.0). Jennings won the vote on a team that posted a 73-win season, as we suspect voters were just impressed any Rox pitcher could win 16 games—never mind his atrocious 4.52 ERA, though, right?
Digging deeper, we see the Reds won 78 games, while the Cubs claimed just 67 victories. Ouch! As for the Braves, they ran away with the best record in the league (101-59). That means this hardware belongs to Moss, since his contributions were the only rookie ones of note to even get a team above .500, it seems. His pitching line—12-6, 3.42 ERA, 179 IP, and 1.279 WHIP—added a lot of value to Atlanta.