Congratulations to Josh Hamilton, who won the AL MVP Award today (with another former Red, Paul Konerko, finishing fifth in the voting). There have been a number of former Reds who later won MVPs. Let’s explore….
Now we all know that Joey Votto has been named the National League and former Red Josh Hamilton has won the American League MVP award. Too, we all would be happy to have had both Votto and Hamilton in the our lineup together. Knowing what we know now, I suppose that would have solved our outfield problem and we’d have less of a logjam at starting pitcher, and maybe Edinson Volquez wouldn’t have started Game One in the playoffs.
But all that doesn’t matter now. Outside of the Volquez starting game one decision, I still think the Hamilton-Volquez trade was defensible at the time it was made. In saying that, the Ken Griffey (Jr.)—Mike Cameron (et al) trade was defensible at the time, too, but didn’t really pan out as well as we hoped.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, the Reds are now tied with the Giants for second place as a team in total National League Most Valuable Player Award seasons with twelve. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have more (17).
Hamilton had a truly terrific year, hitting .359 with 32 homers and 100 rbi in only 133 games. He had a .411 OBP and led the majors in slugging percentage (.633) and OPS (1.044). Since leaving the Reds, Hamilton is hitting .315 with 74 homers in three seasons with a .915 OPS (138 OPS+). He’s been a very good player since leaving Cincinnati. In saying all that, Hamilton is not the first former Red that became an MVP following his Reds playing days. There have been others.
Pitcher Jim Konstanty was named the 1950 NL MVP while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. Making 74 appearances from the bullpen, Konstanty was 16-7 with a 2.66 ERA. He led the majors in games pitched, games finished (62) and saves (22). The 74 games pitched and 62 games finished were new records at the time. He pitched 152 innings, all in relief, and allowed only 108 hits, a ratio of 6.4 hits per nine innings. 1950 was Konstanty’s only all-star season.
Konstanty received 18 of 24 first place votes in beating out the Cardinals’ Stan Musial (.346, 28 homers, 109 rbi, .437 OBP, .596 SLP, 1.034 OPS) for the Award. Konstanty totaled 286 points, Musial 158, and Giants shortstop Eddie Stanky had 144. Stanky had batted .300 with eight homers, 51 rbi, and a .460 OBP. The 1950 Phillies finished first in the National League.
Konstanty had broken in as a rookie with the Reds in 1950, going 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 20 games, 12 of them starts. After serving one year in World War II, the Reds traded Konstanty to the Boston Bees for outfielder Max West, who batted .213 with five homers in one season with the Reds.
In 1952, Chicago Cubs outfielder Hank Sauer was named NL MVP after batting .270 with a major league leading 37 homers and 121 rbi. Sauer had a .361 OBP, a. 531 SLP, an .892 OPS, and a 143 OPS+. The 35-year-old played in his second all-star game that season.
Sauer won in a very tight race over Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Robin Roberts and Brooklyn Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Black. Roberts was 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA with 30 complete games and 330 innings pitched. Black was a rookie relief pitcher, a former Negro League player, who was 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA, 41 games finished and 15 saves. Black did win Rookie of the Year and would later pitch for the Reds. Sauer and Black each had eight first place votes, Roberts had seven, and Dodger outfielder Duke Snider had one. Sauer had 226 points, Roberts 211, and Black had 208.
Sauer had come up with the Reds in 1941, but had the reputation of good-hit, no-field, and Reds manager Bill McKechnie was a defense first manager who didn’t want Sauer’s glove in the lineup. Sauer had three cups of coffee with the Reds, mixed with years in the Coast Guard during World War II, before getting a full-time job with the Reds in 1946 when he hit .260 with 35 homers and 97 rbi. However, he struck out a league leading 85 times and when he slumped early in 1947 (.237, four homers, in 42 games), the Reds traded Sauer and fellow outfielder Frank Baumholtz to the Cubs for outfielders Peanuts Lowrey and Harry Walker. Walker played 86 games for the Reds, batting .318 before being dealt to the Cardinals as a two-year part-time player. Lowrey hit .275 and .227 in parts of two seasons for the Reds before being sold to the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Sauer kept hitting home runs. In 1954, Sauer batted .288 with 41 homers and 103 rbi at age 37. In fifteen seasons, Sauer hit .266 with 288 home runs and 876 rbi, and an .843 OPS (123 OPS+). With the Reds in five seasons, Sauer hit .262 with 46 homers. Sauer was selected to two All-Star teams in his career, both with the Cubs. He had no other seasons in the top five in MVP voting, but did receive MVP votes six different seasons, once with the Reds.
In 1966, Frank Robinson won the American League MVP when he won the Triple Crown, leading the league by batting .319 with 49 homers, and 122 runs batted in. Robinson led the league with 122 runs scored, a .410 OBP, a .637 SLP, a 1.047 OPS, a 198 OPS+, and 367 total bases.
Robinson became the only player to win the MVP Award in both leagues, having previously won it for the Reds in 1961 when he hit .323 with 37 home runs and 124 rbi, a .404 OBP, and a league leading .611 SLP, a 1.015 OPS, and a 163 OPS+. This was Robinson’s first season in the American League following his trade from the Reds. Robinson was a unanimous winner for the MVP with third baseman teammate Brooks Robinson (,269, 23 homers, 100 rbi) placing second, and his other teammate, first baseman Boog Powell (.287, 34 homers, 109 rbi), finishing in third place. Frank Robinson totaled 280 points, Brooks Robinson had 153, and Powell had 122.
Robinson was selected to 12 all-star teams, six with the Reds and six after he left the Reds. He finished in the top five in MVP voting six different times, three times with the Reds and three times later. He received MVP votes in 15 different seasons, nine times while with the Reds.
While Mike Cuellar didn’t win a MVP, he was named the American League Cy Young Award co-winner for the 1969 season when he was 23-11 with a 2.38 ERA and 182 strikeouts. He tied in voting with Detroit Tigers ace Denny McLain to become the only co-winners in Cy Young Award history. He also finished eighth in MVP voting that season.
Cuellar didn’t lead the league in any of the major categories, but finished near the top in most. He was second in wins, third in ERA, second in WHIP, third in hits/nine innings, fifth in fewest walks per nine innings, third in complete games, third in shutouts, and third in ERA+. For the season, McLain was 24-9 with a 2.80 ERA and 181 strikeouts. McLain had won the Award outright in 1968 when he was the last 30-game winner in the major leagues, going 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA, 280 strikeouts, and nine shutouts.
Cuellar and McLain split with 10 first place votes each and ten voting points each. The Minnesota Twins Jim Perry had three votes and Cuellar teammate Dave McNally had one.
Cuellar had a cup of coffee with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1959, pitching in two games, going 0-0 with a 15.75 ERA. He had pitched four innings in relief, allowing seven hits, four walks, and eight runs before going back to the minors. He then passed through the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians organizations before resurfacing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 when he was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 32 games. He was traded to the Houston Astros midway through 1965 and became a star pitcher in 1966 when he was 12-10 with a 2.22 ERA (153 ERA+). He remained a star pitcher through 1975 before slowing his final two seasons.
Overall, Cuellar was 185-130 with a 3.14 ERA (110 ERA+). He finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 1970 when he was 24-8 with a 3.48 ERA. Cuellar was a four-time all-star, finishing in the top six in Cy Young voting on three different times. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting in two different seasons and received MVP votes in four different seasons.
The Cy Young Award began in 1956 and one winner was chosen for the major leagues through 1966. The major leagues began choosing one winner per league starting in the 1967 season.