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Teammates to finish first and second in MVP voting

If teammates finishing first and second in MVP Award voting sounds like a rarity, that’s because it is. There have been just six instances in the divisional era (since 1969) of teammates finishing 1-2 for the award.

It makes sense, given that we’ve come to expect that teammates who excel in the same year may “split the vote,” preventing either from winning an award. But sometimes, two teammates produce enough that even that doesn’t stand in the way.

This is of particular relevance in 2022, with the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado tied leading all National League players with 7.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference (entering Sunday). They could join this exclusive list when awards are announced in November.

Here’s a look at the six instances of teammates finishing first and second in MVP Award voting in the same year in the divisional era. The MVP Award winner is listed first in each pair.

2000 NL: Jeff Kent & Barry Bonds, Giants

Bonds went on to win the next four NL MVP Awards, but it was his teammate Kent who won in 2000. Kent received 22 of 30 first-place votes, with Bonds getting the next-most, with six. The vote wasn’t close between Kent’s 392 vote points and Bonds’ 279. But Mike Piazza was just eight points behind Bonds in third, with 271. That’s how close this was to not being on the list, and the teammates not finishing first and second.

Both players had prodigious offensive outputs for the 97-win Giants, who won the NL West. Kent hit .334, with 125 RBIs, fourth-most in the NL. Bonds’ .688 slugging percentage was second in the NL, and his 49 homers were second in MLB. The NL WAR leader was actually Todd Helton, who led MLB with 147 RBIs, a .372 batting average and a .698 slugging percentage.

1990 NL: Barry Bonds & Bobby Bonilla, Pirates

That’s right, Bonds is on this list twice, but won the award this time. He received 23 of 24 first-place votes, with his Pirates teammate Bonilla getting the other one. Bonds received 331 vote points total. Unlike the 2000 vote, this one wasn’t a close call between second and third place, with Bonilla’s 212 vote points not close to Darryl Strawberry’s 167.

Bonds led the NL with 9.7 WAR, a .565 slugging percentage and a .970 OPS. Bonilla had 120 RBIs to Bonds’ 114, though it was the Giants’ Matt Williams who led the NL, with 122. The two helped lead a 95-win Pirates team that won the NL East for the first time since 1979, when the team went on to win the World Series.

1989 NL: Kevin Mitchell & Will Clark, Giants

The Giants have had this happen with two standout teammates twice since ‘69. Mitchell got 20 of 24 first-place votes and won the award with 314 vote points. His teammate Clark got three of those other four first-place votes, accumulating 225 vote points for second place, well ahead of the Cardinals’ Pedro Guerrero’s 190, in third.

Mitchell led MLB in homers with 47, RBIs with 125, slugging percentage at .634 and OPS at 1.023. Clark tied for the NL lead with 104 runs scored. He also had 196 hits, second in the NL to Tony Gwynn’s 203. The Giants won the NL West for the second time in three seasons.

1983 AL: Cal Ripken Jr. & Eddie Murray, Orioles

Ripken received 15 of 28 first-place votes, ending up with 322 vote points. His teammate Murray got 10 first-place votes and 290 vote points total. It wasn’t close between second and third, with White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk next with 209 vote points.

Ripken led the Majors with 8.2 WAR and 211 hits, playing all 162 games and amassing an MLB-leading 663 at-bats. He also led the AL with 121 runs scored. Murray hit .306 himself, with a .538 slugging percentage and 111 RBIs, nine more than Ripken. The O’s won 98 games, and went on to win the World Series.

1976 NL: Joe Morgan & George Foster, Reds

Morgan received 19 of 24 first-place votes, totaling 311 points. His teammate Foster got the other five first-place votes and 221 vote points. The Phillies’ Mike Schmidt was third, with 179 vote points.

Morgan had 60 stolen bases, plus led MLB in WAR (9.6), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging (.576). Foster led the Majors with 121 RBIs. The Reds won 100-plus games for the second straight year and won the NL West for the fifth time in seven seasons, going on to win their second straight World Series.

1971 AL: Vida Blue & Sal Bando, Athletics

Blue, who also won AL Cy Young, received 14 of 24 first-place votes, and 268 total points. His teammate Bando got four first-place votes and 182 points, ahead of the Orioles’ Frank Robinson’s 170 vote points in third.

Blue led the AL with a 1.82 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, and led MLB with eight shutouts. Bando hit .271 with 24 homers and 94 RBIs. The A’s won 101 games, the franchise’s most since winning 107 in 1931 as the Philadelphia A’s.

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