Willson Contreras? Cubs influencing Cardinals history already

·4 min read

How 2022 Cubs could influence Cardinals, NL history originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Rain in St. Louis on Sunday couldn’t wash away the cold, hard, damp fact that the Cardinals have clobbered the Cubs this season, and their 12-6 mark against the Cubs entering Sunday’s season series finale is a big part of their big lead in the National League Central.

So what? So the Cubs front office wasn’t even trying to win this year? Fair enough.

But who knew the Cubs would have such an outsized influence on all the success happening at the top of the division by Labor Day, just by showing up to play the Cardinals?

In fact, the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have done enough clobbering of the Cubs themselves — particularly MVP favorite Goldschmidt — that the Cubs might have at least some influence on some history that might be brewing in the league this year.

If Goldschmidt and Arenado finish 1-2 in MVP race this year, it will mark the 25th time in history under the current MVP format (1931-present) that one team has had the top two finishers, 14th in the National League — and the first time it will have happened in more than two decades.

Through Saturday, Goldschmidt and Arenado ranked 1-2 in WAR (per Baseball Reference), in the league, 1-2 in OPS, 1-6 in batting, 1-4 in slugging and 1-3 in RBI.

For their part, the Cubs have allowed more of Goldschmidt’s 34 homers (seven) than any other team, to go along with a 1.047 OPS against the Cubs this year. One more homer against the Cubs Sunday and Goldschmidt would tie the Cardinals record for a season on a list that includes Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and, of course, Albert Pujols.

Arenado, the NL Player of the Month for both April and August, has had a more muted starring role against the Cubs this year, including a .290 average, three homers and .848 OPS against them.

And all this before the Cubs even send Willson Contreras officially into free agency and possibly into the Cardinals' arms.

If Goldschmidt and Arenado finish 1-2 in MVP voting this year, it will mark the fourth time the Cardinals have achieved that — also twice in the 1940s and again in 1967 (Orlando Cepeda, Tim McCarver).

In case anyone is wondering, the Cubs are not one of the five NL franchises to claim the top two spots in MVP voting in a season.

Not that the rare-are accomplishment would necessarily give the Cardinals an edge on winning the World Series if history is any indication.

While half of the previous 12 teams that had the top two MVP vote-getters won the World Series, only two of six managed to do it during the divisional, league-playoff era (post-1968): The 1976 Reds (Joe Morgan, George Foster) and the 1983 Orioles (Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray).

The last three to do it all came up short: 1989 Giants (Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark), 1990 Pirates (Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla) and 2000 Giants (Jeff Kent, Bonds). The last two didn’t get there.

Postseason awards votes are due before the first playoff game.

As might seem obvious, the percentages were much greater when the regular season determined the World Series qualifiers. Ten of those 18 teams with 1-2 finishes won the World Series — including two years in which a team with a 1-2 MVP finish beat another team with a 1-2 finish (1960 Pirates over the Yankees, 1956 Yankees over the Dodgers).

All three of the Cards' previous 1-2 MVP finishes came before the divisional playoff format, and the won two of those three World Series.

Incidentally, three teams in history achieved 1-2-3 finishes in MVP voting, all before division playoffs began, and only one of the three won the World Series: The 1966 Orioles (Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell).

The two others: The 1941 Dodgers (Dolph Camilli, Pete Reiser, Whit Wyatt) and the 1959 “Hitless Wonders” White Sox (Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn).

The complete list of teams with 1-2 MVP finishes (bold face indicates won World Series):

  • 2000 Giants (NL) — Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds

  • 1990 Pirates (NL) — Barry Bonds Bobby Bonilla

  • 1989 Giants (NL) — Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark

  • 1983 Orioles (AL) — Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray

  • 1976 Reds (NL) — Joe Morgan, George Foster

  • 1971 Athletics (AL) — Vida Blue, Sal Bando

  • 1968 Tigers (AL) — Denny McLain, Bill Freehan

  • 1967 Cardinals (NL) — Orlando Cepeda, Tim McCarver

  • 1966 Orioles (AL)* — Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell

  • 1965 Twins (AL) — Zoilo Versalles, Tony Oliva

  • 1962 Yankees (AL) — Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson

  • 1961 Yankees (AL) — Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle

  • 1960 Yankees (AL) — Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle

  • 1960 Pirates (NL) — Dick Groat, Don Hoak

  • 1959 White Sox (AL)* — Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn

  • 1956 Yankees (AL) — Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra

  • 1956 Dodgers (NL) — Don Newcombe, Sal Maglie

  • 1955 Dodgers (NL) — Roy Campanella, Duke Snider

  • 1945 Tigers (AL) — Hal Newhouser, Eddie Mayo

  • 1944 Tigers (AL) — Hal Newhouser, Dizzy Trout

  • 1943 Cardinals (NL) — Stan Musial, Walker Cooper

  • 1942 Cardinals (NL) — Mort Cooper, Enos Slaughter

  • 1941 Dodgers (NL)* — Dolph Camilli, Pete Reiser, Whit Wyatt

  • 1934 Tigers (NL) — Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer

*-Team had 1-2-3 MVP finish.

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