Larkin MVP, Bichette Beefs : Baseball: Colorado outfielder had better statistics, but Cincinnati shortstop wins close vote.
Barry Larkin, the Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop and team leader, won the National League most-valuable-player award Wednesday when a 28-member committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America devalued and deflated the mile-high productivity of Colorado left fielder Dante Bichette.
“I have to assume they voted on leadership and defensive ability and not the numbers,” said Bichette, who almost won a triple crown but “definitely felt” he was hurt by playing half his games in the thin air of Coors Field.
“I think it was a popular thing this year not to give the Rockies much respect because of Coors Field, but I think that will change eventually and it will be recognized simply as one more great hitters’ park like Wrigley Field or Atlanta or Tiger Stadium or Cincinnati.”
“I thought the MVP would go to a guy like Dante Bichette because of the home runs and all that kind of stuff,” Larkin told The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cabo San Lucas, where he’s on a cruise. “But I was wrong.”
Bichette led the league in six offensive categories and was in the top four in three others. He was first in home runs, 40, and runs batted in, 128, and third behind Tony Gwynn and Mike Piazza in batting at .340.
“Maybe Dante will have to hit .360 next year,” Colorado Manager Don Baylor said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He’s gotten better each of the last three years.”
Larkin batted .319 with 15 home runs, 66 RBI and 51 stolen bases, but many of his contributions were intangible--on and off the field.
“I was partial to Bichette because he dominated so many categories, but Larkin was my other choice because of what he’s done and what he brings to a club,” Baylor said. “He’s an unselfish player who’s at the center of almost everything that happens with that team. He’s a manager on the field.”
“I played my game this year,” Larkin said. “This year it was critiqued, and people appreciated it for what it was. Because we were able to win, they spoke about it more often.”
In becoming the first shortstop to win the NL award since Maury Wills of the Dodgers in 1962, Larkin received 11 first-place votes and 281 points, based on 14 for a first-place vote, nine for a second, eight for a third and down to one for a 10th-place vote.
Bichette received six first-place votes and 251 points. He was selected as low as fifth on three ballots and sixth on one.
Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves, who received his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award on Monday, got seven first-place votes and 249 points, the highest finish by a pitcher since Dodger reliever Mike Marshall finished third in 1974.
Piazza, who received three first-place votes, was fourth in the voting. Dodger teammate Erik Karros was fifth. The other first-place vote went to Red outfielder Ron Gant.
“Barry Larkin is a great player and team leader, and I don’t discredit him in any way,” Bichette said. “There’s some disappointment, but I’m proud of what I achieved this year. The home runs, the RBIs, the 23-game hitting streak [the longest in the league], none of that required a vote.”
Bichette hit 31 of his 40 homers at Coors Field, including the first 17, and accounted for almost two-thirds of his RBIs there, but he did hit .300 on the road and was a major force on the Rockies’ final trip, when they cemented a playoff berth.
Baylor said he didn’t think Coors Field was that much of a factor in the voting.
He also said Bichette’s impact might have been diluted because the Rockies had three other players with 30 or more home runs.
One of them, Larry Walker, was seventh in the voting.
“I’m not sure how they voted or what they were looking for,” Bichette said. “You have to trust that they did the best they could, and I basically do, but I’m also not sure they looked at it that thoroughly.
“I mean, if Coors Field was the determining factor, they may have outsmarted themselves. Coors obviously deserves some of the credit for the good numbers, but the numbers [his and Larkin’s] weren’t that close that the ballpark should have been the deciding factor.
“It must have come down to thinking Larkin was the more valuable.”
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Top 10 vote-getters for the 1995 National League most-valuable-player Award, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points based on a 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis:
Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Tot. Larkin, Cincinnati 11 5 7 281 Bichette, Colorado 6 6 6 251 Maddux, Atlanta 7 8 5 249 Piazza, Dodgers 3 7 6 214 Karros, Dodgers 0 2 3 135 Sanders, Cincinnati 0 0 0 120 Walker, Colorado 0 0 1 88 Sosa, Chicago 0 0 0 81 Gwynn, San Diego 0 0 0 72 Biggio, Houston 0 0 0 58
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