Major League Baseball just announced that it has renamed the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in honor of Willie Mays. Beginning with the 2017 World Series, the MVP of the Fall Classic will now be recognized as the “Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player.”
The announcement comes on the 63rd anniversary of “The Catch” Mays made in the 1954 World Series on a deep fly ball off of Vic Wertz in the Polo Grounds. The throw that came after it was almost as amazing. As was the fact that the Giants beat a 111-win Cleveland Indians team in four straight games.
There was no World Series MVP Award that year. It officially began in 1955, though the BBWAA’s Babe Ruth Award for the best postseason performance dates back to 1949. It still exists too but, unlike most other awards in which the BBWAA honor is seen as more prestigious than the MLB honor, no one really cares much about that while many fans can name multiple World Series MVP winners. It probably has to do with the fact that the World Series MVP Award is handed out the night of the final game of the World Series when everyone is excited whereas the Babe Ruth Award is given out weeks later after everyone is in offseason mode.
Some irony about it all? The Catch notwithstanding, Willie Mays was actually pretty terrible in the World Series. He hit a combined .239/.308/.282 in four World Series, and his teams lost three of those four Series. We’ll let that slide, though, because (a) he’s Willie Freakin’ Mays; and (b) The Catch is something far better-remembered than whoever had a great batting line in any given World Series.
With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.
Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.
After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.