Baseball's 1982 awards stir less controversy than usual
In a departure from most previous years, baseball's major 1982 individual awards produced practically no argument or dissent. Robin Yount was a shoo-in, of course, for American League Most Valuable Player honors. And the other top winners - National League MVP Dale Murphy and Cy Young Award recipients Pete Vuckovich and Steve Carlton - were also solid choices who won out handily.Skip to next paragraph
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The only controversy worthy of the name, in fact, revolved around the American League MVP voting - and the question wasn't whether Yount should have won the award, but rather why he wasn't a unanimous selection.
The hard-hitting Milwaukee shortstop was such an obvious choice that all through the last weeks of the season, the playoffs, and the World Series, he was regularly referred to as the MVP. Everyone knew he would win the award after leading the Brewers to the pennant with his bat, his glove, and his fiery overall play. Indeed it was difficult to see how any voter could make him less than No. 1 on the ballot.
Playing outstanding defense at a position where any sort of hitting is considered gravy, Yount was a big cog in the offense as well, just missing the batting title with a .331 average while smashing 29 home runs and driving in 114 runs.
That was good enough to earn Robin 27 of the 28 first place votes cast by two designated baseball writers from each league city as he rolled up an overwhelming victory. Eddie Murray of Baltimore was a distant second, with Doug DeCinces of California, Hal McRae of Kansas City, and Cecil Cooper of Milwaukee rounding out the top five.
Amazingly, however, the writer who snubbed Yount passed over all of these next most popular candidates too, giving his vote to California slugger Reggie Jackson, who finished sixth in the overall balloting. And in perhaps an even more mind-boggling move, he didn't even put Yount second, consigning the Brewer star to fourth place on his ballot.
The writer, Jim Golla of the Toronto Globe & Mail, told United Press International that he felt Jackson deserved the honor because of his ability to carry a team the entire season and to lift himself up to the occasion in the stretch, making the other players around him that much better as well.
Everyone else, though, seemed to notice that Yount did these very same things while outhitting Jackson by more than 50 points, playing in more games, performing better in the field, stealing more bases, and even outslugging him in almost every category, including doubles, triples, extra base hits, and RBIs, with Reggie on top only in home runs, 39-29.
If it's any consolation to Yount, there's a precedent for this sort of thing; in fact even as strange as Golla's slighting of him seems, it pales by comparison to what happened in 1967. Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown that year, batting .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBIs, playing spectacularly in the field, and hitting over .400 down the stretch while leading Boston to it's ''Impossible Dream'' pennant. If ever there seemed a cinch for unanimous selection, he was it - but he was passed over by one writer in favor of Minnesota Twins' sparkplug Cesar Tovar, who helped his club by playing several positions but hit only .267 with virtually no power and finished tied for seventh in the overall balloting.
The vote for Tovar caused such a furor that Max Nichols of the Minneapolis Star stepped forward and identified himself as the writer who hadn't put Yaz first (such information was not routinely available then). The feeling against his vote ran so high that at the next meeting of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) there was even a motion made to censure Nichols, but it was defeated 22-1.
There have been many other controversies over the years, of course - not only on questions of unanimous election but in terms of who should have won. This year, though, the answers to the latter question all seemed pretty clear.