In what might have had as much to do with personality as performance, Mo Vaughn of the Boston Red Sox edged Albert Belle of the Cleveland Indians in voting for the American League most-valuable-player award.
In results announced Thursday, a 28-member committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America chose the popular and accessible Vaughn over the often rude and uncooperative Belle by an eight-point margin, making it the fifth-closest MVP election in league history.
A letter sent to committee members with their ballots listed guidelines that have been unchanged since 1931, one of them citing “General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.”
Speaking at the Boston youth center he developed and helps finance, Vaughn said of the vote:
“I guess it really does say something. Character is important. They’re looking at the whole thing, not just the numbers. If it’s just numbers, Albert probably wins. He had a great season. But I feel that I did too.”
Vaughn and Belle tied for the league lead in runs batted in with 126, but the Cleveland left fielder otherwise dominated the Boston first baseman statistically, batting .317 to Vaughn’s .300 and hammering 50 home runs to Vaughn’s 39.
Despite the strike-shortened schedule of 144 games, Belle also became the first player in major league history to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles--52 to be exact--in the same season and became the first player since Stan Musial in 1948 with 100 extra-base hits in a season.
But whereas Vaughn was a consistent catalyst as the surprising Red Sox won the East Division title, Belle did much of his damage--a major league record 31 home runs in the last two months--after the runaway Indians were well on their way to the Central Division title, perhaps another balloting consideration.
Vaughn drew 12 first-place votes, 12 seconds and four thirds for a total of 308 points, based on 14 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second, eight for a third and down to one for a 10th-place vote. Belle got 11 first-place votes, 10 seconds and seven thirds for 300 points.
A switch of one first-place vote would have given the award to Belle.
The only other player listed on all 28 ballots was designated hitter Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners. He finished third with 244 points and four first-place votes. Cleveland closer Jose Mesa was fourth with one first-place vote and 130 points.
Seattle’s Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson were fifth and sixth, followed by right fielder Tim Salmon of the Angels.
Belle played golf with National League Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux in Las Vegas on Thursday but turned down interview requests through the Indians and abruptly hung up when reached by Paul Hoynes, who covers the team for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove said Belle would have been his MVP “hands down, but I can see why Vaughn got it.”
He also said, “The thing I keep hearing all the time is that if you take Albert out of our lineup and take Vaughn out of Boston’s lineup, they’d be hurt more than us, but I don’t think that holds water. It’s just people trying to justify their vote.”
Of Belle’s late-season production, Hargrove said, “People who say the race was over by the second half are full of it. They’re the same people who were lining us up to play California in the division series, and we know what happened with that. The MVP vote should be based on a full season.”
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Leading vote-getters for the 1995 American League most-valuable-player award, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on a 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis:
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Tot. Vaughn, Boston 12 12 4 308 Belle, Cleveland 11 10 7 300 E.Martinez, Seattle 4 5 12 244 Mesa, Cleveland 1 0 1 130 Buhner, Seattle 0 0 1 120 Johnson, Seattle 0 1 2 111 Salmon, Angels 0 0 0 110
How They Rate
A comparison between the top finishers in the American League MVP balloting, Mo Vaughn of the Red Sox and Albert Belle of the Indians:
VAUGHN BELLE Home Runs 39 50 RBI 126 126 Average .300 .317 Slugging Percentage .575 .690 Hits 165 173 Runs 98 121 Doubles 28 52 Strikeouts 150 80 Walks 68 73