Well, the tradition will continue this year as we add the newest members, the 2009 Division Series MVPs.
But I need to add something I neglected last year.
In 1981, the first ever Division Series was played between the first half and second half champions. Actually it was the “Who was in first place when the strike ended?” versus “Who had the best POST strike record?” series… and it screwed over the Reds and Cardinals, who had the best records overall in the National League, but finished in second at the time of the strike and after the strike.
But that is neither here nor there… they did play a Division Series that year and I should include THOSE MVP’s retroactively here.
Twins fans have no clue what people are referring to when A-Rod is called an October choker. After almost single handily eliminating Minnesota in 2004, A-Rod dominated once again in 2009.
He batted .455 with an OPS of 1.500 in the three game sweep, driving in 6 runs. But also showed a flair for the dramatic. He crushed a 9th inning game tying homer off of All Star closer Joe Nathan in the wild Game 2. And then hit another game tying shot in the 7th inning of the clinching Game 3.
Abreu’s numbers were eye popping enough in the Angels’ sweep over the Red Sox.
He batted .556 with an OPS of 1.470. But his 2 out 2 strike RBI double in the 9th inning of Game 3 brought the Angels to within 1 run and set up the dramatic Vlad Guerrero 2 run single.
And while he didn’t get the win in the Game 4 clincher, he pitched into the 8th inning holding the Rockies to 3 runs in Coors Field… no small feat.
Ethier hit an even .500 with a 1.905 OPS in the Dodgers startling three game sweep of the Cardinals.
He homered in the Game 2 come from behind win and hit a 2 run homer in the Game 3 clincher that helped break the Cardinals’ back.
JASON BAY, Boston Red Sox
Bay batted .412 with a .882 slugging, 2 homers and 5 runs batted in during his first post season. But that only tells part of his impact in the Red Sox 4 game victory over the favored Angels.
His 6th inning 2 run homer put the Angels on their heels seemingly for the rest of the series.
His 3 run shot in the first inning gave the Red Sox a 4-1 cushion early.
And he scored the series winning run after his 1 out 9th inning flair bounced into the stands for a ground rule double.
AKINORI IWAMURA, Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, Evan Longoria’s home runs were almost as sexy as Eva Longoria. But Iwamura hit a key triple in game 1, hit the go ahead homer in game 2, gave the Rays an early lead with a single in game 3 and went 2-5 in the game 4 clincher against the White Sox.
In all, Iwamura batted .389 with a .722 slugging in the series.
MANNY RAMIREZ, Los Angeles Dodgers
As if his numbers weren’t gaudy enough (2 homers, a .500 average and a 1.743 OPS in the stunning three game sweep of the Cubs) his presence was even a bigger threat.
With 2 outs and a 2 run lead, Ryan Dempster walked Ramirez in the 5th inning… which set up the James Loney grand slam.
Manny simply changed the series by being Manny.
BRETT MYERS, Philadelphia Phillies
Any hope for the Milwaukee Brewers winning the Division Series hinged on the left arm of CC Sabathia. Not only did he beat Sabathia in the 5-2 Phillies win in game 2, but his gritty at bat in the second inning where he kept fouling off two out two strike pitches to ultimately coax a walk set up Shane Victorino’s game winning grand slam.
Myers 7 inning, 2 hit performance loomed even larger when the Brewers won the next game but were eliminated in game 4.
DAVID ORTIZ, Boston Red Sox
Everyone remembers Manny standing at home plate after his walk off homer in game 2… but that was set up by the intentional walk to Big Papi.
Ortiz hit .714 with an OPS of 2.417 in the three game sweep of the Angels. Plus he hit homers in games 1 and 3.
GRADY SIZEMORE, Cleveland Indians
Batted .375 with an OPS of 1.212 from the lead off spot.
Scored the tying run on Joba Chamberlain’s insect inspired wild pitch and hit the lead off home run in game 4 that sunk the Yankees 3 games to 1.
STEPHEN DREW, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hit a key homer off of Carlos Zambrano in game 1 and doubled and scored in the heart breaking first inning at Wrigley.
Finished the three game sweep of the Cubs at an even .500 with an OPS of 1.643 and 4 RBI
KAZ MATSUI, Colorado Rockies
Matsui erased a 1 run deficit with a 2 out 4th inning grand slam in game 2. The Phillies never recovered and were swept away in 3.
He also hit a 2 out RBI triple in the clinching third game.
In the end he batted .417 with a 1.583 OPS.
FRANK THOMAS, Oakland Athletics
With his 2 home runs in game 1 (including one off of Johan Santana) Thomas crushed the Minnesota Twins’ late season momentum and turned the series into a surprising 3 game sweep.
In the end, Thomas batted .500 with an OPS of 1.783
CURTIS GRANDERSON, Detroit Tigers
An o-fer in the fourth and final game of the Tigers upset over the Yankees made his numbers less eye popping than some of his teammates. (Especially Carlos Guillen’s .571 average and 1.625 OPS.) But make no mistake, it was Granderson who hit the key home runs, started the key rallies and basically drove the Yankees nuts.
By the time he went 0-5 in the finale, the Yankees were already reeling.
CARLOS DELGADO, New York Mets
Delgado went 4-5 in his first ever post season game, including a home run and the game winning hit in the 7th inning.
He finished the series with a .429 Average and a 1.072 OPS.
CHRIS CARPENTER, St. Louis Cardinals
Went 2-0 in the 4 game upset of San Diego.
Pitched 7 strong innings in the game 4 clincher
BENGIE MOLINA, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Hit the game tying single and then a key home run in game 2 and then homered off of Randy Johnson in the game 3 win in Yankee Stadium.
In all he batted .444 with an OPS of 1.418 with 3 homers and 5 RBI in the Angels 5 game win over the Yankees.
A. J. PIERZYNSKI, Chicago White Sox
Pierzynski homered twice in the 14-2 game 1 rout of the Defending Champion Red Sox.
Doubled to lead off the 9th inning of game 3 and scored a critical insurance run to complete the 3 game sweep.
Finished with a .444 average and a 1.878 OPS.
LANCE BERKMAN, Houston Astros
Batted .357 with 5 RBI in Houston’s 4 game victory over the Braves.
Brought the Astros back to within one in game 4 with an 8th inning grand slam. The Astros would tie the game in the 9th and go on the 18 inning marathon before clinching on Chris Burke’s homer.
REGGIE SANDERS, St. Louis Cardinals
Sanders drove in an incredible 10 runs in the three game sweep of the San Diego Padres.
6 of those runs were driven in game 1 with a 2 run single and a grand slam.
DAVID ORTIZ, Boston Red Sox
Pretty cut and dry choice here.
Ortiz hit .545 with a 1.688 OPS for the three game sweep of the Angels… and ended the series with a dramatic 2 out 2 run walk off 10th inning home run that sent Fenway into a frenzy.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ, New York Yankees
It was strange for me to type the words Alex Rodriguez in a post about October heroes…
But lest we forget (and no doubt Scott Boras would remind us) A-Rod won his first Yankees post season series almost single handedly.
He batted .421 with an OPS of 1.213 in the 4 game victory over the Twins. He drove in 3 runs in the extra inning game 2 victory including a one out game tying double in the 12th. In the clinching game 4, he doubled in the 11th, stole third and scored what would be the series winning run on a wild pitch.
Between his heroics against the Twins and his .368 average with a 1.244 OPS in the first 4 games against Boston, A-Rod’s post season legacy in New York looked down right heroic… little did we know!
EDGAR RENTERIA, St. Louis Cardinals
In a line up full of power threats like Pujols, Walker, Rolen, Edmonds and Sanders, it was Renteria who put up the biggest numbers. He batted .455 in the 4 game victory over Los Angeles with a 1.236 OPS.
Hit key RBI double in game 1, a big RBI single in the clincher and seemed to be involved in rallies throughout the series.
CARLOS BELTRAN, Houston Astros
Beltran’s spectacular cameo in Houston included blasting 4 home runs in the Astros’ 5 game victory over Atlanta. 2 of those homers took place in the do or die game 5.
In all, Beltran’s amazing salary drive included a .455 average, a 1.591 OPS, 4 home runs and 9 RBI
ANDY PETTITTE, New York Yankees
Down 1-0 to the Twins, Pettitte pitched a solid game 2 and held Minnesota off long enough for the Yankees to rally for 3 7th inning runs to win the game.
The Yankees responded by winning the next two games in Minneapolis, but who knows how the series would have unfolded if New York was down 0-2?
TODD WALKER, Boston Red Sox
Smashed 3 home runs in the 5 game series with Oakland, including one in a possible elimination game 4 that brought the Red Sox to within 1.
He picked up the slack for the slumping Ortiz and Ramirez with a .313 average and a 1.228 OPS.
Now someday I’ll understand why Grady kept pulling him in the late innings.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ, Florida Marlins
Sure his numbers in the Marlins 4 game victory over the heavily favored Giants were great (.353, 6 RBI, 1.038 OPS) but his flair for the dramatic was even better.
His 2 out 2 run walk off single capped a come from behind rally to win a critical game 4 in 11 innings. His collision at the plate with Yorvit Torreabla allowed himself to score the go ahead run and let an important insurance run come home as well.
And the series ended with J. T. Snow crashing into home with the potential tying run, but Pudge held onto the ball and ended the series.
KERRY WOOD, Chicago Cubs
Facing the 101 win Atlanta Braves, Kerry Wood pitched road victories for game 1 and the clinching game 5.
He pitched into the 8th inning striking out 11 in game 1.
He then threw 8 innings letting up only 1 run in the clincher… the only post season series victory for the Cubs since 1908.
TIM SALMON, Anaheim Angels
Drove in 7 runs in the shocking 4 game upset of the Yankees. His 2 run double started the Angels come back rally from a 6-1 game 3 deficit.
BRAD RADKE, Minnesota Twins
Won game 1 and the clinching game 5 in Oakland as the Twins stunned the heavily favored A’s.
Finished the series with a 2-0 record with a 1.54 and only one walk in his two starts.
FERNANDO VINA, St. Louis Cardinals
Gave the Cardinals unbelievable production from the top of the order as they swept the defending champion Diamondbacks in 3 games.
He finished with a .600 average and an OPS of 1.225 and was always on base as sluggers like Pujols and Edmonds slugged the Cardinals past Johnson and Schilling.
RUSS ORTIZ, San Francisco Giants
Won the opener of the series on the road in Atlanta by pitching 7 solid innings letting up only 2 runs and 5 hits.
Came back to win the clinching game 5, pitching into the 6th inning letting up a single run as the Giants upset the Braves.
DEREK JETER, New York Yankees
His .444 average and .976 OPS would be enough for consideration… but his miracle flip play to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate probably prevented an Oakland sweep.
He made a crashing catch into the stands for good measure.
ICHIRO SUZUKI, Seattle Mariners
Batted .600 with a 1.269 OPS in the 5 game victory over Cleveland. Got 12 hits in the short series including a key RBI hit in the series saving 7th inning rally in game 4.
CURT SCHILLING, Arizona Diamondbacks
Schilling threw complete game victories in game 1 and the clinching game 5 over the St. Louis Cardinals. He let up a total of 9 hits and only 2 walks while striking out 18 to a 0.50 ERA.
CHIPPER JONES, Atlanta Braves
Jones’ 3 run 8th inning homer gave the Braves the lead in game 1 and they never looked back in their sweep of the Houston Astros.
Jones finished the series with a .444 average, a 1.694 OPS, 2 homers and 5 RBI/
MARIANO RIVERA, New York Yankees
With the Yankees stumbling into the 2000 playoffs, the 2 time defending champs looked vulnerable to the upstart A’s. Joe Torre needed to call on Rivera to come into the 8th inning three different times.
In game 2, Rivera came in the 8th with the tying run at the plate and got out of the jam.
In game 3, started the 8th and pitched 2 shut out innings for the save.
In the game 5 clincher, Rivera came in with the tying run at the plate and only one out and finished the game without letting up a run.
In all, Rivera let up no runs, no walks and only 2 hits in 5 innings as he saved all 3 wins.
EDGAR MARTINEZ, Seattle Mariners
Martinez hit a 2 run game winning 10th inning home run off of White Sox pitcher Keith Foulke.
In all, Martinez hit .364 with a 1.189 OPS in the three game sweep of the White Sox.
JIM EDMONDS, St. Louis Cardinals
Batted .571, homered twice, drove in 7 runs and finished with an OPS of 1.886 as the Cardinals massacred the Braves in 3 games.
BOBBY JONES, New York Mets
With the Mets up 2-1 in the series after two thrilling extra inning wins over San Francisco, Jones shut down the Giants once and for all in the game 4 clincher.
Jones let up a double to Jeff Kent and a walk to J.T. Snow in the 5th inning… but was perfect in the other 8 as his 1 hit complete game shutout crushed the Giants and propelled the Mets to the NLCS.
ORLANDO HERNANDEZ, New York Yankees
Blink and you would miss the 1999 division series between the Rangers and the Yankees. The tone of the series was set early by El Duque who shut down the mighty Rangers to only 2 hits over 8 shut out innings in the opener.
The Rangers would score a single run in the SERIES as they were swept in 3.
PEDRO MARTINEZ, Boston Red Sox
Yes Nomar got some big hits… and Valentin drove in 12 runs in the 5 game series against the Indians… and O’Leary’s 2 homers sealed the deal.
But the spectre of Pedro loomed over this entire series.
When Pedro got hurt in game 1 after throwing 4 shut out innings, it gave the Indians a fighting chance.
And when he came in the 4th inning as a reliever in the deciding 5th game, their fate was sealed.
Pedro threw 6 no hit innings to finish the series and combined for 10 innings, only 3 hits and 11 strikeouts.
KEVIN MILLWOOD, Atlanta Braves
Millwood let up a second inning home run to Houston’s Ken Caminiti in game 2. He didn’t allow a hit nor a walk for the rest of the game as he threw a complete game one hitter.
That performance would be enough for consideration but the next game, he came out of the bullpen and threw a 1-2-3 12th for the save.
The Braves would clinch the next day.
EDGARDO ALFONZO, New York Mets
“Fonzie” homered 3 times in the 4 game victory over the Diamondbacks. His second one was a 9th inning grand slam that put the Mets ahead and set the tone for the series.
He would finish the series with a 1.243 OPS and helped turn 5 double plays.
SHANE SPENCER, New York Yankees
Spencer didn’t even start the first game of the three game sweep of the Rangers.
But he hit the go ahead homer in game 2 and put the clinching game 3 away with a three run shot…
giving him a .500 average and a 2.000 OPS.
KENNY LOFTON, Cleveland Indians
Lofton finished the series with a .375 average and a 1.225 OPS including 2 homers in the 4 game series win over the Red Sox.
His single and stolen base set up the 2 run rally that gave the Indians the 2-1 series ending victory in game 4.
He also hit the go ahead run in Cleveland’s game 2 victory and homered to put the Indians ahead for good in game 3.
JOHN SMOLTZ, Atlanta Braves
Smoltz threw into the 8th inning, letting up only 1 run, 5 hits and walking none as the Braves slowed down the Cubs momentum and took control of the series early.
Despite a scare in game 2, the Braves would go on to sweep.
KEVIN BROWN, San Diego Padres
Out dueled Randy Johnson in a thrilling game 1 showdown. Brown went 8 innings letting up only 2 hits and no runs while striking out 16 in the Padres 2-1 victory.
Combined with his game 3 start where he threw into the 7th inning, Brown had a 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 innings while striking out 21 as the Padres beat the Astros in 4.
SANDY ALOMAR, JR, Cleveland Indians
Batted .316 with 2 homers, 5 RBI and an OPS of 1.000 in the Indians tense 5 game victory over the Yankees.
But no hit was bigger than his game tying home run off of Mariano Rivera with the Indians just 4 outs from elimination in game 4.
Cleveland would go on to win games 4 and 5 by one run each.
MIKE MUSSINA, Baltimore Orioles
Out pitched Randy Johnson at the Kingdome for game 1 and then beat him again in the clinching game 4 in Camden Yards.
Finished the 4 game series with a 2-0 record, a 1.93 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14 innings as the Orioles beat the star studded Seattle team for a trip to the ALCS.
GREG MADDUX, Atlanta Braves
Astros pitcher Darryl Kile held the mighty Braves to only 2 hits and 2 runs in the opening game in Atlanta.
And it wasn’t good enough as Greg Maddux threw a complete game and held the Astros to a single run. Having avoided the Astros biggest threat, the Braves swept Houston in 3.
GARY SHEFFIELD, Florida Marlins
Finished the 3 game sweep of the Giants with a .556 average, an OPS of 1.714.
Homered in the game 2 win and always seemed to be on base as the Marlins won 3 heart stopping games.
BERNIE WILLIAMS, New York Yankees
Truth be told, I almost gave this to Juan Gonzalez… who hit 5 homers in 4 games for the Rangers and was a one man wrecking crew. But I couldn’t give it to a player on the losing team! I just couldn’t.
Besides, Bernie did his share of damage… including scoring the tying run in game 2, driving home the tying run in the 9th inning of game 3 and homering twice in the come from behind game 4 clincher.
B. J. SURHOFF, Baltimore Orioles
Surhoff homered twice in game 1 and finished the series with 3 homers, a .385 average and an OPS of 1.462 as the Orioles stunned the defending AL Champion Indians in 4 games.
JOHN SMOLTZ, Atlanta Braves
In a series dominated by pitching, nobody pitched better than Smoltz who shut the Dodgers down to 1 run over 9 innings in the opening game. Smoltz would get the victory as the Braves won in 10 and would sweep Los Angeles despite hitting only .180 for the series.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY, St. Louis Cardinals
In a tight series where all three games could have gone either way, Eck came through with 3 save, letting up no runs in 3 2/3 innings as the Cardinals swept the Padres.
EDDIE MURRAY, Cleveland Indians
Batted .385 in the three game sweep of the Red Sox.
In game 1 hit a go ahead single in the 8th.
In game 2, his 2 run shot put the game away.
In game 3, he singled twice, walked twice and scored twice in the clincher
EDGAR MARTINEZ, Seattle Mariners
Yes Griffey homered 5 times in 5 games and yes Big Unit won 2 of the Mariners 3 games against the Yankees… but it was Edgar Martinez’s grand slam that set up the mind boggling game 5… and it was Edgar Martinez’s 2 run double that won the series for the Mariners.
His numbers, .571 average, 1.000 slugging, an OPS of 1.667, 10 RBIs in 5 games, would merit the award even without his flair for the dramatic.
CHIPPER JONES, Atlanta Braves
Marquis Grissom had gaudier numbers, but Jones’ home run won game 1 against the Rockies… and he seemed to be driving in runs or scoring runs in every big Braves rally in a series that was a lot closer than it had any business being.
HAL MORRIS, Cincinnati Reds
Batted an even .500 in the three game sweep of the Dodgers.
He drove in the first 2 runs of a 4 run first inning outburst in game 1 that set the tone for the series.
Started the rally in the 6th inning of game 3 that knocked Nomo out of the game and put the game (and the series) out of reach.
And now for the MVPs for the 1981 Division Series held after the strike.
Gamble batted .556 with a 1.933 OPS in the 5 game victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
His homer off of Moose Haas tied Game 1.
Then in the clinching Game 5, Gamble homered off of Haas again to put the Yankees up for good, sending them back to the ALCS.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 8th, McCatty let the first two batters reach. Instead of going to the pen, Martin let McCatty face Amos Otis, Hal McRae and Clint Hurdle. He worked out of the jam and then finished his complete game victory giving the A’s a 2-0 series lead.
With the Dodgers down 0-1 to the Astros, Reuss came up big in Game 2 throwing 9 shutout innings scattering 5 hits. Unfortunately for Reuss, Joe Niekro shut down the Dodgers as well and the Astros won it in 11 innings.
In the deciding Game 5, Reuss got the ball again. He threw 9 shutout innings again, but this time the Dodgers pulled off a 6th inning rally to take the lead. His complete game shutout clinched the series that he finished with 18 scoreless innings.
Rogers had the daunting task of facing the era’s best pitcher, Steve Carlton, in Game 1 of the Division Series. Rogers let up 10 hits but only 1 run over 8 2/3 innings to get the win.
In the do or die on the road Game 5 against the defending World Champs, Rogers was again matched up against Carlton.
He was up for the task, throwing a complete game shut out, getting Mike Schmidt, Gary Matthews and Manny Trillo out in order to clinch the series and end the Phillies’ dreams of repeating as World Champions.
So there it is… updated until next year.
Who knows which Hall of Famers (like Eddie Murray) will make this list in the future?
How many obscure heroes (like Shane Spencer or Todd Walker) will find October glory?
Once again, I am happy to send them a prize… if only I could think of one.