Welcome to 1904 on MLB Monday Redux: We’re going back to fill in the first few seasons of the World Series era when it comes to the base MVP and Cy Young awards. This is an extension of our first miniseries that started back in March 2020, as we began then with the first year MVPs were given out, and we should have started 8 seasons earlier. So, here we go in filling historical gaps in the record!
Enjoy a few weeks of bonus content here …
1904 AL MVP: Freddy Parent, SS, Boston
Seven of the top position players were in the junior circuit, and three of them were teammates (Cleveland’s second baseman Nap Lajoie, shortstop Bill Bradley, and right fielder Elmer Flick). With a combined 21.2 WAR between them, it’s odd the Naps finished in fourth place. Our true MVP candidates, therefore, are limited to just three players now, all playing for teams that finished higher than Cleveland.
Chicago White Sox SS George Davis (7.2 WAR), Boston Americans SS Freddy Parent (6.3), and New York Highlanders SS Kid Elberfeld (5.4) are the best bets here. The Americans won the pennant by 1.5 games over the Highlanders, with the White Sox coming in third (6 GB). So this comes down to Parent, again, actually, as without him, Boston doesn’t win its second-straight AL flag (even with no Series).
His numbers this time: 77 RBI, 20 SBs, and 2.2 dWAR—good enough for sixth in MLB overall on defense. It’s not a surprise the sabermetrics give good-fielding shortstops so much love in this era, as Davis (1st) and Elberfeld (4th) also finished very high in the defensive metrics for the regular season. But Boston just needed Parent more, in terms of value and winning the pennant.
1904 NL MVP: Frank Chance, 1B, Chicago
Our three best MVP options here are Pittsburgh Pirates SS Honus Wagner (8.2 WAR), Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Chance (5.9), and New York Giants SS Bill Dahlen (5.5). Wagner won our nod last season, but this time, the Giants won the NL pennant by 13 games. That sort of makes Dahlen less valuable, of course, and the Cubs finished second, a full 6 games ahead of the Pirates.
Wagner was clearly the best player, but Chance was the most valuable based on the standings, even Chicago was a distant silver medalist. And unlike last season, he was a positive defender this time around, too (0.9 dWAR). Add in his 42 SBs, .812 OPS, and 49 RBI, and the Cubs would have been below the Pirates in the standings without Chance’s bat, glove, and legs.
1904 AL Cy Young: Jack Chesbro, SP, New York
Another odd situation, where we have two pitchers meeting our historic threshold for double-digit WAR: Philadelphia Athletics legend Rube Waddell (11.3 WAR) and Highlanders star Jack Chesbro (10.6). At least they played for different teams this time, however. But it does shaft the Boston Americans icon Cy Young (9.3) from a chance at another piece of hardware that bears his name, doesn’t it? Ironic.
With New York finishing second by just 1.5 games, we give this award to Chesbro, as the A’s finished fifth, 12.5 GB overall. This was the season that he won 41 games, while also topping the league in starts (51), complete games (48), innings pitched (454 2/3), and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.7). His 1.82 ERA wasn’t too shabby, either.
1904 NL Cy Young: Joe McGinnity, SP, New York
Our top contenders are New York veteran Joe McGinnity (9.6), St. Louis Cardinals stalwart Kid Nichols (8.6), and Cincinnati Reds workhorse Noodles Hahn (6.6). Of course, McGinnity won this award last year, and this year, his team ran away with the pennant by 13 games—making him less valuable. But the Reds finished 18 games out, and the Cards were under .500 for the year. So, the original “Iron Man” wins out.
McGinnity’s numbers: NL highs in wins (35), ERA (1.61), shutouts (8), saves (5), IP (408), and WHIP (0.963). We’re not sure how someone leads the leagues in wins, ERA, shutouts, and saves, but make that’s how he got his “Iron Man” nickname. At age 33, he would never be better than this, and “this” is an amazing level of performance.