Our second MLB Monday miniseries has begun: World Series MVPs, Managers of the Years (MOTY), and (undeserving) Gold Glove winners, all wrapped into one weekly column that will get fatter as time goes on. Where will the world be when we finish this miniseries? Good question; we know where the world was when we started this column, that’s for sure.
Going deep into the past makes analysis more challenging, but we’ve done our best … enjoy!
1904 World Series MVP: None
The New York Giants, champions of the National League, deemed themselves too awesome to bother playing against whatever team won the American League pennant—in this case, the Boston Americans, who won the 1903 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Giants Manager John McGraw, who was mediocre when he led the 1902 Baltimore Orioles to just a .456 win rate in the AL, led the refusal to play.
Bitterpants much? Remember, it was McGraw who left those 1902 Baltimore Orioles with a losing record midway through the season to go manage the Giants instead. So, of course, Little Napoleon was afraid of taking on the Americans and losing. And that is the story: the first World Series to be “canceled” ever.
1904 AL MOTY: Clark Griffith, New York
The modern-day Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees rivalry can be traced all the way back to 1904, perhaps, when it was the Americans versus the Highlanders. Boston edged out New York for the AL pennant by 1.5 games, even though the Highlanders really should have been closer to 10 games behind, based on Pythagorean projections.
Give credit, again, to N.Y. Manager Clark Griffith, who squeezed 8 extra wins out of his roster. A league-best 35 wins in 1-run games fueled the over-performance, in addition to the Highlanders’ AL-high 49-17 record against teams that finished under .500 for the year. So Griffith had them winning the games they should have won, while also squeezing out a lot of close ones that made the difference in the standings.
1904 NL MOTY: Frank Selee, Chicago
The Chicago Cubs finished a distant 13 games behind the Giants in the NL, but it was 6 games better than they should have finished, based on Pythagorean projections. That was the best over-achieving mark for a contending team in the league, and the Cubs also led the NL in 1-run victories, with 29 of them. All in all, it was the difference between a dogfight for third place and a comfortable second.
Manager Frank Selee can get the credit from us again, based on those numbers above. He did get 12.7 WAR out of the famed trio of Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Joe Tinker, but Selee also managed the rest of the team to a 93-60-3 record on his own. Outside Mordecai Brown (3.3 WAR), there was not a lot of historical talent on the team.