Was Pedro Martinez Left Off the 1999 MVP Ballot Entirely by a Voter Who Had Voted for David Wells and Rick Helling the Previous Year?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Pedro Martinez lost the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award due to being left off the ballot of two voters completely, one of whom who had made some rather interesting votes the previous season.

The American League had quite a succession of pitching feats from 1997-2000, as Roger Clemens of the Toronto Blue Jays received back-to-back Cy Young Awards for his pitching performances in 1997 and 1998, when Clemens won the “Triple Crown” of pitching, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and Earned Run Average.

The following year, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox ALSO won the Cy Young by ALSO winning the “Triple Crown” of pitching. He followed THAT up by winning the Cy Young again in 2000 (no Triple Crown, though, although his 2000 season might have been even better than his 1999 season).

Martinez’s 1999 season was particular notable for what happened when the awards were handed out.

Naturally, he won the Cy Young Award easily. However, he came in a very close second in the voting for the Most Valuable Player, with 239 points compared to winner Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez’s 252 points. Martinez had received more first place votes, but as it turned out, he was left off of the ballot of two voters COMPLETELY, New York’s George King and Minneapolis’ LaVelle Neal!

In both cases, the voters determined that starting pitchers shouldn’t be eligible (in their mind) for the award, as they don’t play every day.

Now there’s naturally nothing in the award that SAYS that you shouldn’t include everyone, and the aforementioned Roger Clemens had already WON the MVP Award in 1986, but I suppose fair enough – people can make odd decisions, I guess.

However, in the case of King, it was weirder than that…

You see, the PREVIOUS season he had put TWO starting pitchers on his MVP ballot, the Yankees’ David Wells and the Texas Rangers’ Rick Helling! King’s vote for Helling was the only vote Helling received, as he went 20-7 with a 4.41 ERA.

King later noted that he had a talk with someone after the 1998 MVP who convinced him that his earlier MVP votes were off-base and that he should no longer vote for pitchers, which he agreed to do, and I’m sure he didn’t expect it to have a major impact right off the bat!

It was not until 2011 that a starting pitcher next won the American League MVP, as Detroit Tiger starter Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP. Just last year, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the first National League MVP by a starting pitcher since Bob Gibson all the way back in 1968.

I don’t know if King voted for Verlander in 2012.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

2 Responses to “Was Pedro Martinez Left Off the 1999 MVP Ballot Entirely by a Voter Who Had Voted for David Wells and Rick Helling the Previous Year?”

  1. I thought I also remembered that George King voted for Roger Clemens for MVP, some time after the 1999 season. Am I misremembering that part of the story?

  2. I’ll look into that, Scott.

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