All kinds of robberies happen every day around the world. The most likely kind(s) of course are home/store robberies. But they can happen in the sports world too. There was probably none bigger than the one that took place a little over 20 years ago in the MLB. Future Hall Of Famer, 1B Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies was robbed in broad daylight by the MLB and San Francisco Giants 2B Jeff Kent. They took from him the most prestigious prize in the sport of baseball, the MVP trophy.
There have been plenty of cases throughout MLB history where you could argue that the runner-up to the MVP should have won over the player that did. But as I implied earlier, none of those cases come close to this one. At least off the top of my head there isn’t one.
An Overview Of The 2000 Season
Just to give a quick synopsis of the overall season, here are a few highlights outside of the NL MVP race. The Montreal Expos were still a team. The Yankees ended up completing a three-peat of the World Series. Ken Griffey Jr., arguably the greatest player of all-time, got traded to Cincinnati from Seattle. Even with that trade, the Mariners still made it to the ALCS.
On a different note, a 1909 Honus Wagner card sold for a then record $1 million on Ebay.com. That record has since been broken several times. Including eight times in just over the past year and a half. Most recently, a 1952 Mickey Mantle (PSA Grade 9) sold for $5.2 million at an auction.
Helton vs. Kent
Todd Helton was entering his fourth season, coming off a very good 1999 season with a slash line of .320/.395/.587. Yet he wasn’t even top-30 in MVP voting. While Jeff Kent, entering his ninth season, had a slash line of .290/.366/.511. That got Kent enough MVP votes to place 26th. Placing 26th might not seem like anything major, but when his slash line is easily less impressive than Helton’s, it doesn’t make sense. At least not for Helton to not even place in the top-30, if not higher.
But anyway, we are here to talk about the 2000 season, not 1999. The Rockies were still a young franchise, only in their eighth season. So they were still trying to find their footing for the most part, only having finished over .500 once so far. At the All-Star break that year, the Rockies and Helton were fighting Kent and the Giants for second place in the NL West division.
The two future Hall of Famers were battling for MVP at that point in the season already. Both hitting over .350 with more than 20 home runs each. ESPN’s Dennis Fowler was very high on both of these players. Going as far to say that Helton could easily be the next player to hit .400, and that the Giants were “Kent’s team just as much as they were Barry Bonds’.”
The battle between Kent and Helton, along with the battle between their teams, continued for the rest of the season. Ultimately, San Francisco would pull far ahead and finish first in the division, but go on to lose the NLDS. While Colorado fell behind finishing fourth and miss the playoffs. Helton and the Rockies may have missed the cut, but Helton himself had one of the best seasons of the past 25 years.
He finished the season leading the whole league in RBIs (147), batting average (.372), SLG% (.698), OPS (1.162) and doubles (59). Along with hitting 42 home runs. Yet somehow four other players, including Kent who was the winner, finished in front of him. Helton only received one first-place vote. If there is even a thought in your mind that anyone else should have won over Helton, then I’m sorry but you’re wrong. Jeff Kent didn’t even lead the NL in any major stat, but he got 22 first-place votes.
Why Did Kent Win?
There is only one reason that comes to mind as to why Jeff Kent and four other players placed above Todd Helton in the MVP voting. It’s one that shouldn’t matter in the voting process either, It should be all about how a player does in the batters box/on the field. But sadly, that’s not how it is more often than not.
The reason being that Helton and the Rockies record was worse than the other players at the end of the season. San Francisco (Kent, Bonds), finished first in the NL West making it to the NLDS. St. Louis (Jim Edmonds), finished first in the NL Central making it to the NLCS. Lastly, the Mets (Piazza), finished second in the NL East ultimately making it to the World Series, losing in 5 games to the Yankees.
A player’s team doing better than another’s should have no bearing on award voting, especially not MVP voting. Baseball isn’t a sport where one player controls a game’s outcome like some other sports. As I mentioned earlier, Helton blew everyone out of the water in multiple statistics. Yet, since his team missed the playoffs and the other players teams made it, he drew the short straw.
It just makes no sense to me, how a guy could dominate like Helton did, yet not be rewarded for it in any way. There is no way it ever will, it’s just too mind-boggling. I hope whoever had votes that year looks back on it now and regrets their decision at least a little bit.
Zach D (@Derosia_14 on Twitter)
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