Hamilton and Pujols? Match that!
December, 14, 2012
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
Maybe Albert Pujols will hit third and Josh Hamilton will hit fourth. Maybe Hamilton will hold down the 3-hole, and it'll be Sir Albert who hits cleanup.
Whichever it is, the dream for those Los Angeles Angels, of the Confluence of the Orange and Santa Ana Freeways, remains the same: They're dreaming of five years of having two former MVPs holding down the 3-4 slots in one of the great lineups in baseball.
All for a mere 49 million bucks a year.
If that's how it all goes down, ladies and gentlemen, it would be extremely rare. More rare than a World Series at Wrigley. More rare than a 50-win season by the Clippers. More rare, even, than a bad Pierce Brosnan hair day.
Two MVPs in the middle of the same order for 800 games? 700? 600? Even 500?
Here's a bulletin for you:
That's never happened. Ever.
I ran this question past the Elias Sports Bureau on Friday, after giving up on attempting to research it myself: Have two hitters ever batted 3-4 in the same lineup for 500 games after each of them had won an MVP award?
I thought for sure it had happened somewhere.
Willie Mays and Willie McCovey? Nope.
Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski? Afraid not.
Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench? No sir.
No Yankees? No Dodgers? No Tigers? No Braves? Didn't happen. Amazingly.
Turns out that only four duos in history ever did that for even 250 games. None made it to 400, let alone 500, 600 or more. So here's your leader board, as Elias compiled it:
374 games: Mickey Mantle/Roger Maris
323 games: Charlie Gehringer/Hank Greenberg
269 games: Barry Bonds/Jeff Kent
264 games: Brooks Robinson/Frank Robinson
250 games: Yogi Berra/Mickey Mantle
What do you notice if you peruse that list carefully? I'll tell you what I noticed: Only one of those tag teams -- Bonds and Kent -- has achieved that feat in the past 40 years.
Gehringer and Greenberg go back to the 1930s and '40s. Berra and Mantle did it largely in the '50s. Mantle/Maris pulled it off in the '60s. The Robinsons were together in the '60s and early '70s.
Here's something else I noticed: All of those men won MVP awards for the same team. Not one of those duos was pieced together, like Pujols and Hamilton, after each had been an MVP someplace else.
The closest any of those teams came to that involved Bonds, who won three MVPs in Pittsburgh but went on to win four more in San Francisco, and Frank Robinson, who had one MVP trophy when he arrived in Baltimore but collected a second in his first year with the Orioles.
The Angels are attempting to do something that has never been done -- in more ways than one. Wish them luck. Hamilton's next over-caffeine-ization attack might be just minutes away.
Meanwhile, if we turn our attention away from Anaheim, Elias found only two other active pairs of former MVPs who have hit 3-4 in the same lineup at any point for their current teams.
You can no doubt guess one of them. That would be Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in Minnesota. (Hey, you were expecting maybe Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario?)
What you might not guess is that even though the Twins have played 486 regular-season games since Mauer joined Morneau in the MVP winner's circle, those two men have hit 3-4 in the same lineup for just 101 of them.
So what's the second MVP pairing with any experience in those 3-4 holes? How about Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in Philadelphia? They've done that in 40 games, on the rare occasions over the years when the Phillies dropped Rollins into the No. 3 slot.
Finally, I could find only two other teams that employ MVP teammates at the moment. But neither pair qualifies for this list.
There are Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander in Detroit, but Verlander (0-for-24, 14 strikeouts) won't be hitting in the middle of any team's lineup anytime soon.
And there's Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki (once the re-signing of Suzuki becomes official). Ichiro hit third in 65 games in Seattle, but after he joined the Yankees last year, he spent all his time in the first, second, seventh, eighth and ninth holes. And it's tough to see that changing, wouldn't you say?
Now that I've got you thinking about this stuff, who out there remembers any other prominent pairs of former MVPs who played together after each had won the award? I could toss out a dozen. But it's more fun to let you get involved.
So feel free to tweet them at me, @jaysonst, or email them to email@example.com.
Can't wait to see who you come up with!