Mike Trout and 7 other MVPs from disappointing teams in sports history
The voters got it right on Thursday — to the surprise of many.
Angels OF Mike Trout was named AL MVP despite his team's awful record (74-88) in 2016. He became the first MVP from a team that missed the playoffs since Alex Rodriguez in 2003.
Yet those two superstars aren't alone in claiming a most valuable player award while suffering through a tough season. Here are the worst teams to produce an MVP in the four major professional sports over the past 50 years, listed from best to worst win percentage.
Spoiler: MLB and NHL take the cake on this bittersweet list.
NFL: Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions, 1997*
Team record: 9-7 (.563 win percentage)
The NFL MVP has never come from a losing team, though Sanders' Lions came close. The Hall of Fame running back helped pace a top-five offense, rushing for 2,053 yards and 11 TDs plus 305 yards and 3 TDs receiving.
Who'd he beat out? Sanders actually shared the MVP award with Brett Favre in 1997. Favre's Packers finished 13-3.
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NBA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers, 1975-76
Team record: 40-42 (.488 win percentage)
Abdul-Jabbar joined a Lakers team that desperately needed his service in 1975, and he immediately responded with his third MVP award. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 27.7 points, 16.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 4.1 blocks per game while making 52.9% of his field goal attempts.
Who'd he beat out? Bob McAdoo and Dave Cowens were both right behind Abdul-Jabbar in the voting. The Lakers center received 52 first-place votes compared to 47 and 48 for McAdoo and Cowens, respectively.
MLB: Andre Dawson, Chicago Cubs, 1987
Team record: 76-85 (.472 win percentage)
The Cubs have a storied tradition of MVPs from losing teams. Beyond Dawson, Ernie Banks won MVP with the Cubs in 1958 (72-82) and 1959 (74-80).
Dawson batted .287 with 49 HR, 137 RBI and an OPS+ of 130.
Who'd he beat out? Ozzie Smith finished second in 1987. His Cardinals lost to the Twins in the World Series.
NHL: Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1980-81
Team record: 29-35-16 (.463 win percentage)
Gretzky was immediately a star in the NHL. His second year in the league was actually his second consecutive MVP season, as he tallied 55 goals and 109 assists, scoring on over 20 percent of his shots on goal.
Who'd he beat out? St. Louis Blues G Mike Liut's 33-14-13 record between the pipes wasn't quite enough to top Gretzky's incredible offensive performance.
Trout's slash line in 2016, for what it's worth: .315/.441/.550, with 29 HR and 100 RBI.
Who'd he beat out? Boston's Mookie Betts finished second with nine first-place votes and 311 points to Trout's 19 and 356, respectively.
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MLB: Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers, 2003
Team record: 71-91 (.438 win percentage)
A-Rod's last year in Texas was one hell of a season, although he was probably even better the year before. Rodriguez finished 2003 with a .298 BA, 47 HR and a 147 OPS+.
Who'd he beat out? Toronto's Carlos Delgado nearly turned his second All-Star-worthy season into an MVP award, but his Blue Jays (86-76) also failed to make the postseason. They were over, .500, though!
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NHL: Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1979-80
Team record: 28-39-13 (.431 win percentage)
NHL rookie Gretzky was basically a one-man show, as he scored or assisted on 45.5% of Edmonton's goals in 1979-80. He totaled 51 goals and 86 assists for the expansion Oilers, earning the first of eight consecutive Hart Trophies.
Who'd he beat out? In a nice bit of serendipidity, LA Kings C Marcel Dionne finished second in 1979-80. Gretzky would go on to replace Dionne with the Kings years later.
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Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore Orioles, 1991
Team record: 67-95 (.414 win percentage)
The Ironman is the biggest loser-winner in sports over the past 50 years. He set career-highs in HR (34) and RBI (114) and won his second MVP award while the Orioles played garbage baseball around him.
Who'd he beat out? Ripken and Detroit's Cecil Fielder were head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates in 1991, with Fielder drawing nine first-place votes compared to Ripken's 15. Frank Thomas finished third but earned just one first-place vote.