San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, who persevered through a difficult time in his personal life, extended his record in Most Valuable Player Award voting with his sixth election in the 2003 National League balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Bonds, whose father Bobby died in August, became the first player in history to win the award in three consecutive seasons. Seven other players won the award three times overall — Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Mike Schmidt in the NL and Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle in the AL. Bonds had been among 11 players who won the award in back-to-back years and the only one to have done it twice.
Bonds batted .341 with 45 home runs and 90 RBI and led the league in slugging percentage (.749), on-base average (.529), home run ratio (1 every 8.7 at-bats) and walks (148) for a team that won the NL West title. He was listed first on 28 of the 32 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city, second on two and third for a total of 426 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one for 10th.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols received three first-place votes and 29 for second to finish with the runner-up score of 303 points. He led the NL in batting (.359), runs scored (137), hits (212), extra-base hits (95), total bases (394) and doubles (51) and was fourth in home runs (43) and RBI (124). It marked the second straight year that Pujols finished second to Bonds in the voting.
Musial was the runnerup in three consecutive elections in 1949, ’50 and ’51. Pujols is the 10th player to finish second two years in a row, joining the Cardinals’ Dizzy Dean (1935-36) and Johnny Mize (1939-40) and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax (1965-66) and Mike Piazza (1996-97) in the NL. In the AL, back-to-back runners-up were the New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig (1931-32), the Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams (1941-42), the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle (1960-61), the Baltimore Orioles’ Eddie Murray (1982-83) and the Detroit Tigers’ Cecil Fielder (1990-91).
The other first-place vote went to Atlanta Braves right fielder Gary Sheffield (.330, 39 HR, 132 RBI), who finished third with 247 points. Bonds, Pujols and Sheffield were the only players named to all ballots. In all, 34 players gained mention.
Rounding out the top 10 were Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Jim Thome (.266, 47 HR, 131 RBI), Braves catcher Javy Lopez (.328, 43 HR, 109 RBI), Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Eric Gagne (2-3, 1.20 ERA, 55 SV, 137 K in 82 1/3 IP), Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton (.358, 33 HR, 117 RBI), Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa (.279, 40 HR, 103 RBI), Cubs pitcher Mark Prior (18-6, 2.43 ERA, 245 K in 211 1/3 IP) and Florida Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre (.305, 204 H, 65 SB).
Bonds, who turned 39 July 24, is the second oldest winner of an MVP Award. Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Willie Stargell, the co-winner in 1979, turned 39 March 6 of that year. Bonds’ three victories plus the 2000 victory of second baseman Jeff Kent makes the Giants the first NL team to win four consecutive MVPs. The Yankees did that twice in the AL with Berra in ’54 and ’55 and Mantle in ’56 and ’57 and with Roger Maris in 1960 and ’61, Mantle in ’62 and Elston Howard in ’63.
In addition to Bonds and Kent, other Giants winners were Carl Hubbell in 1933 and ’36, Willie Mays in 1954 and ’65, Willie McCovey in 1969 and Kevin Mitchell in 1989. The Giants’ 11 MVPs tie the Cincinnati Reds for second in the NL behind the Cardinals’ 14.
2003 NL MVP