Rodriguez beats out Martinez for MVP

Ranger wins despite fewer 1st-place votes

2 ballots omit pitcher

November 19, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES

Ivan Rodriguez failed to win the Most Valuable Player Award for his own team, but was named MVP of the American League yesterday. Pedro Martinez received the most first-place votes for Most Valuable Player, but he finished second, in part because two writers left him off their ballots.

The bizarre nature of this year's voting, then, assures that the selection of Rodriguez will go down as one of the most controversial in baseball history. "I'm not going to start crying about it," said Martinez, the Boston pitcher who was picked unanimously for the AL Cy Young Award earlier this week.

He disagreed, though, with the idea that starting pitchers should have less chance of winning the MVP award because they play just once every five days.

"We're all players," Martinez said. "What would they do without us? What would they do without pitching?"

Rodriguez, 28, batted .332 with 113 RBIs, 199 hits and 25 stolen bases, but his most significant impact was on defense: A perennial Gold Glove winner, Rodriguez threw out 53 percent of runners attempting to steal, and because of his presence, opponents tried stealing only 99 times this year, the fewest in the majors.

"It's special to get this award, because that's the dream of every player," Rod riguez said.

Martinez, too, had an incredible season, one of the greatest ever by a pitcher. He went 23-4 and his earned run average of 2.07 was 2.79 runs lower than the league ERA of 4.86.

Two members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America from each of the American League's 14 cities vote for the award, slotting players first through 10th. Among the 28 writers, Martinez received eight first-place votes, while the Texas catcher had seven. Cleveland's Roberto Alomar and Manny Ramirez, and Rafael Palmeiro (the Rangers' MVP for 1999 as picked by the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter) had four apiece. But Rodriguez finished with 252 points, ahead of Martinez (239), Alomar (226), Ramirez (226) and Palmeiro (193).

La Velle Neal, who covers the Twins for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and George King, the Yankees' beat writer for the New York Post, did not list Martinez on any of the 10 slots on their ballots. If Neal and King had each placed Martinez as high as fourth, he would have won the MVP.

"I feel a pitcher should just not be an MVP," Neal said. "To win that award, it should be someone who's out there every day battling for his team. It's nothing personal against Pedro."

King was on vacation in the Caribbean and could not be reached.

Rodriguez became the ninth catcher to win the award, and of those, six are in the Hall of Fame, including Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. He was on vacation in Florida when he received word he had won the voting, which was received generally with surprise around baseball. Many thought that Ramirez or Alomar would win, but the Cleveland teammates may have split the voting.

Martinez would have become the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986.

Texas players have won the award in three of the past four years. Juan Gonzalez won in 1996 and '98.

Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, the sports minister in Martinez's Dominican Republic, called the vote an "injustice."

"Pedro was the most distinguished player in the big leagues in 1999," he said.

It's not the first time the Red Sox have been slighted by an omission.

In 1947, Boston's Ted Williams lost the MVP to the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio, 202-201, despite winning the Triple Crown.

Boston Globe writer Mel Webb, who did not like the sometimes-surly Red Sox star, left Williams off his ballot.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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