We are back with another edition of MLB Monday on MLK Day … what symmetry! And, we are finally rid of the San Francisco scourge upon the sport, too. That’s reason enough to celebrate, for sure. Also, while the 2004 season ended one curse, so did the 2005 season. Everybody loves it when a long-suffering franchise breaks through to win it all.
So, without any more fuss, let’s get to the baseball stuff!
2005 AL MVP: Álex Rodríguez (original), Grady Sizemore (revised)
Cheating New York Yankees third baseman Álex Rodríguez (9.4 WAR) won the MVP vote, so this award needs to be re-assigned. The best players in the league, otherwise, were Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts (7.3), Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira (7.2), and Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore (6.6). All these guys were 27 years old or younger. Youth movement!
With the Os and the Rangers both finishing under .500 on the year, it looks like this award will go to Sizemore, as the Tribe finished 2 games out of the postseason chase while winning 93 games. In just his second year in the majors—and first full year, since he played in just 43 games the season prior—Sizemore burst onto the scene with a pretty impressive campaign.
His production (111 runs, 37 doubles, 11 triples, 22 HRs, 81 RBI, 22 SBs, .832 OPS, and 1.5 dWAR) somehow only got him 23rd in the MVP voting, which is a shame in retrospect. But again, this is why we are here, doing what we do—to set the record straight for posterity.
2005 NL MVP: Albert Pujols (original), Morgan Ensberg (revised)
With the S.F. scourge out of the way, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Albert Pujols (8.4 WAR) finally won his first NL MVP vote (even though we already gave him the 2001 and 2003 nods here). He was the best player in the senior circuit, followed by Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee (7.7), Philadelphia Phillies 2B Chase Utley (7.3), Atlanta Braves C Andruw Jones (6.7), Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal (6.5), and Houston Astros 3B Morgan Ensberg (6.3).
The Cards ran away with the NL Central by 11 games over the Astros, who beat out the Phillies by 1 game for the NL wild-card spot. Hmmm. The Braves won the NL East by just 2 games over Philly, but the two Braves teammates cancel each other out here. The Cubs finished under .500, coming in 10 games behind Houston. So, this comes down to Pujols and Ensberg (fourth in the vote), strangely enough.
St. Louis would have won the division without Pujols, while the Astros would have missed the postseason without Ensberg. That has always been our rationale, so this is a surprise to us, too: With 1.7 dWAR, his offense was a huge bonus. He hit 36 HRs, drove in 101 runs, walked 85 times, and posted a .945 OPS—the highest of his career.
2005 AL Cy Young: Bartolo Colon (original), Randy Johnson (revised)
The three best pitchers in the junior circuit were Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana (7.2 WAR), Yankees acquisition Randy Johnson (5.8), and Toronto Blue Jays star Roy Halladay (5.5)—who only made 19 starts on the year. Nonetheless, somehow Los Angeles Angels veteran Bartolo Colon (4.0) won the AL Cy vote, mostly because he posted 21 wins on a division winner.
Well, Santana won this award last year, and we know the Big Unit has his trophies (1995, 1997, 2001, 2002). We took Halladay’s trophy away in 2003, as well. But Colon can’t win this one with a WAR so low, so which one of the stars is going to claim it? The Twins finished 12 games out of the postseason, so that hurts Santana. Toronto was under .500, but New York won the AL East via tiebreak over Boston.
Without the Big Unit, the Yankees miss the postseason, as Cleveland was right there behind the Red Sox. So, strangely, Johnson wins another Cy from us here at age 41 with a surprisingly high ERA (3.79). He went 17-8 with 211 Ks and an impressive 1.126 WHIP. The Big Unit was not the dominant guy we saw in the prior 10 seasons, as he gave up a career-worst 32 HRs. But he was still the most valuable pitcher.
2005 NL Cy Young: Chris Carpenter (original), Roy Oswalt (revised)
Seven of the Top 10 MLB pitchers were from the National League: Astros cheater Roger Clemens (7.8 WAR); Florida Marlins phenom Dontrelle Willis (7.3); New York Mets acquisition Pedro Martínez (7.0); Houston cheater Andy Pettitte (6.8); Astros stalwart Roy Oswalt (5.9); St. Louis veteran Chris Carpenter (5.8); and Cubs star Carlos Zambrano (5.6). What a mess!
Carpenter won the vote, which is a starter. Clemens and Pettitte are out, but that means Oswalt can stay (while Pettitte won our 1995 AL ROTY nod, he wasn’t cheating then). Zambrano won this award from us last year, taking it away from the Rocket. So let’s break it down: The Cards ran away with their division, which reduces Carpenter’s value. But the Marlins and the Mets finished 6 games behind the Astros.
The Cubs were under .500, so this award should go to Oswalt, as Houston claimed the final playoff spot by just 1 game over the Phillies. It’s not Oswalt’s fault he was playing with cheaters, so we can’t hold that against him. He posted a 20-12 record with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.205 WHIP while striking out 184 guys. He was fourth in the original vote, so we’re not too far off here. It’s just weird to sift down so much.
2005 AL ROTY: Huston Street (original), Joe Blanton (revised)
Oakland Athletics closer Huston Street (2.9 WAR) took home the hardware in the vote, but he wasn’t even the best rookie on his own team: That honor went to starter Joe Blanton (3.8), while Tampa Bay Devil Rays starter Scott Kazmir (3.4) and Blue Jays starter Gustavo Chacin (3.1) deserve some consideration, too.
Also in the mix? Chicago White Sox 2B Tadahito Iguchi (2.8) and Tampa Bay OF Jonny Gomes (2.5). But … Iguchi was 30 years old and an 8-year veteran of the Japanese professional leagues, so he’s out. Theoretically, the two Devil Rays and the two A’s cancel each other out, leaving us with Chacin. But the Blue Jays finished under .500, winning just 80 games. So … we have to bring back in the top guys.
That means it’s Blanton or Kazmir: With Oakland winning 88 games and Tampa Bay just 67 games, that means this award goes to Fat-Bottom Joe (as we used to call him). He posted a 12-12 record, a 3.53 ERA, and logged a 1.217 WHIP in over 201 IP for a team that finished 7 games out of the playoffs.
2005 NL ROTY: Ryan Howard (original); Jeff Francoeur (revised)
Three rookies separated themselves in the National League: Vote-winner Ryan Howard (3.1 WAR), the first baseman for the Phillies; Pittsburgh Pirates starter Zach Duke (3.4); and Braves R Jeff Francoeur (3.0). The Bucs won 67 games, so Duke is out, as he also pitched just 84 2/3 innings. The Phillies missed the postseason by 1 game, while the Braves bested Philly by 2 games in the NL East.
That means Francoeur has the edge over Howard as neither guy played anywhere near a full season, either, and both were positive defenders. The Atlanta outfielder had just a little more value to the team that was better: He hit .300 with 14 HRs and 45 RBI, and Jeff Francoeur tossed in 1.6 dWAR to boot while posting an .884 OPS.
This means that for the first time since 1987, we revised all awards in this column space. That means 2005 joins 1947, 1950, and 1961 as well as years where we re-assigned all awards. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you know we’re right! In contrast, the 1975 season has been the only one where we agreed with all the voted selections. Go figure …