Yankees history: MVP award history part one

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

A Yankee has been named the AL MVP 22 times since the awards inception. Here's a look at the first 11 and whether or not the winner deserved it.

Debates about which player was most valuable at the end of a given season are always fun. The past two years alone have gotten the collective undies of the BBWAA in a bundle as the war wages on between lobbyists for Miguel Cabrera versus those for Mike Trout. These arguments aren't a recent phenomenon, so let's take a look at the Yankees who have won the award throughout baseball history and see if they really earned it. All data courtesy of baseball reference.

Babe Ruth in 1923: .393/.545/.764, 41 HR, 131 RBIs, 239 OPS+, 14.0 WAR

In leading the Yankees to their first World Series win, Ruth set a career high in WAR for a season. This was also the year that Old Yankee Stadium opened, so after a showing like this it's no wonder they continued to call it "The House that Ruth Built".

Who should have won: No doubt about this one. The Bambino was on another stratosphere when compared to the league. Harry Heilmann, who hit over .400, was the nearest competition but Ruth was still 4.7 WAR better than him. To put that in perspective, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Nix, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Reynolds combined for 4.7 WAR for the Yankees in 2013.

Lou Gehrig in 1927: .373/.474/.765, 47 HR, 175 RBIs, 220 OPS+, 11.8 WAR

The Yankees second championship was a doozy as Gehrig and his Murderer's Row pals slugged through their competition with ease. This was the most brilliant in a career full of brilliant seasons for Gehrig.

Who should have won: It's important to note here that up until 1930, previous winners were deemed ineligible for subsequent MVP awards. That takes Ruth and his 60 home runs out of the running and makes this an easy decision. Gehrig nearly matched Ruth's gargantuan production and finished 4.6 WAR ahead Heilmann, who only hit .398 this time around.

Lou Gehrig in 1936: .354/.478/.696, 49 HR, 152 RBIs, 190 OPS+, 9.1 WAR

Another Hall of Fame season for Gehrig and another World Series win for the Yankees. The Iron Horse matched his career high in home runs and lead the Yankees to what was actually the first of four consecutive championships.

Who should have won: Gehrig was probably the best position player in the AL ahead of infielders Charlie Gehringer and Luke Appling who had fine seasons but couldn't match his power numbers. However, if you believe that pitchers are worthy of MVP awards, then Lefty Grove and his league-leading 10.5 WAR should probably have taken it.

Joe DiMaggio in 1939: .381/.448/.671, 30 HR, 126 RBIs, 184 OPS+, 8.1 WAR

A young DiMaggio was the key player in the Yankees fourth straight World Series title. He won the only batting title of his career and earned his now famous nickname by patrolling center field with speed and precision.

Who should have won: DiMaggio outproduced a pair of Red Sox, a still-in-his-prime Jimmie Foxx and a rookie named Ted Williams, to stake his claim as the best position player in the league. Like Gehrig three years before, though, a pitcher could easily have won as the flame-throwing Bob Feller lead the AL with 9.8 WAR.

Joe DiMaggio in 1941: .357/.440/.643, 30 HR, 125 RBIs, 184 OPS+, 9.1 WAR

After missing the World Series entirely in 1940, the Yankees came back with a vengeance in 1941 behind DiMaggio's best season as a pro. He put a cherry on top in the form of a 56 game hitting streak, a record that still stands and has been in no danger of being broken to this day.

Who should have won: Despite a season for the ages from DiMaggio, the voters probably let the shine of that hitting streak get the best of them. Ted Williams also had a career season in 1941 as he became the last player to hit .400. He also lead the league in all three slash stats and was worth 10.6 WAR, the league's highest mark.

Joe Gordon in 1942: .322/.409/.491, 18 HR, 103 RBIs, 154 OPS+, 8.2 WAR

Gordon sparked the Yankees to another AL pennant with the greatest season of his Hall of Fame career. It was the only time he would bat over .300 and he continued to impress at second base as one of the best fielders in the game.

Who should have won: Teddy Ballgame deserved this one too. Williams once again lead the league in all three slash stats, once again was worth 10.6 WAR, and once again rubbed sportswriters across the country the wrong way. Still, if flashing the leather is your thing, Gordon was one of the all-time best at second base.

Spud Chandler in 1943: 20-4, 1.64 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 253 IP, 134 K, 198 ERA+, 7.3 WAR

A Yankee M-V-three-Peat! By 1943 many of the league's superstars had gone overseas to serve in the military. Chandler took advantage of the weaker competition and pitched lights out en route to another World Series win for the Yankees.

Who should have won: It's hard to argue against Chandler here. Future Hall of Famers Lou Boudreau and Luke Appling had great seasons for decent teams but did nothing to distinguish themselves from Chandler's dominance. Plus, the Bud Light mascot would be proud.

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