photo: Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna (Jeff Curry/Imagn)
Continuing the tradition started in 2005 but suspended since 2014 for obvious reasons, The Cardinal Nation is once again stepping up to fill a void ignored by Major League Baseball – the lack of a Most Valuable Player in the League Division Series.
First off, the series is just five games instead of seven like the League Championship and World Series. Since there are two LDS matchups, there would have to be two winners, not that it should matter in the least. To make matters worse, fans have to search for the games, as they are often held at odd and floating times and not televised on networks usually covering games of this level of importance.
As part of the second-tier status of the LDS, Major League Baseball does not see fit to name Most Valuable Players for these series only. That is ok – we are more than up to it!
Our 2019 LDS Co-MVPs
The Cardinal Nation has named co-winners for 2019. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and left fielder Marcell Ozuna share The Cardinal Nation National League Division Series Most Valuable Player Award.
The third and fourth hitters in manager Mike Shildt’s lineup powered the Cardinals to a three games to two series win over the Atlanta Braves. Both hit .429 (9-for-21) over the five contests, including two long balls each. They each had a .478 OBP, as well.
Goldschmidt hit four doubles to Ozuna’s three, but the outfielder scored five runs to the first baseman’s four. Goldy drew two free passes to the Big Bear’s one, but Marcell plated five vs. two for his teammate. Both of their OPS’es are out of this world, with Goldschmidt holding the slight 1.383 to 1.335 edge.
In other words, there is no way to decide between the two, so we won’t!
Other Cardinals LDS standouts
Catcher Yadier Molina batted just .143 in the series, but had arguably the biggest moments. His RBI single in the eighth inning of the first elimination contest, Game 4, enabled the Cards to tie. His sacrifice fly in the 10th plated Kolten Wong and capped the comeback that led them to Atlanta, where they crushed the Braves in record fashion in Game 5.
Veteran Adam Wainwright certainly deserves prominent mention for his 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3. The 38-year old was saddled with a no-decision when Carlos Martinez yielded three runs in the ninth to take the loss.
Ace Jack Flaherty was outdueled in Game 2, but had yielded just one score over six frames before a pinch-hit two-run home run from Adam Duvall in the seventh gave Atlanta its winning edge. Though the offense delivered a record-setting 10 runs in the first inning of Game 5, Flaherty kept his edge on the road, holding the Braves to a lone run over six innings in the clincher. The right-hander finished with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings and a 2.77 ERA.
TCN’s LDS MVP history
In 2005, I created our version of the NLDS MVP Award, earned by Reggie Sanders. The well-traveled veteran outfielder drove in an amazing 10 runs in the Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.
The idea really gained traction (at least in my mind) the next year. Then-assistant general manager John Mozeliak of the Cardinals was suspected of providing several of the club’s free agent signees the sleeves out of his vest – the inclusion of bonus clauses in the players’ contracts for the LDS MVP, an award that did not and still does not formally exist.
With creative thinking like that, it is no wonder Mozeliak soon moved up the ladder and has become one of MLB’s most successful senior executives.
In 2006, we bestowed our LDS MVP honors upon Ron Belliard. The second baseman was only briefly a Cardinal, having signed his 2006 contract with the Indians, so he apparently had no LDS MVP clause.
It did not matter. Belliard hit .462 and made several strong defensive plays as the Cards eliminated San Diego in four games on their way to the World Championship.
In 2009, when the Cardinals were dispatched most painfully in the NLDS by Los Angeles in three straight games, I did not give an MVP award for obvious reasons.
The story was once again much better in 2011 as the Cardinals defeated the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in a hard-fought five-game LDS. Faced with two consecutive elimination games, the Cards took both.
The culmination was our LDS MVP Chris Carpenter’s three-hit complete game shutout at Philadelphia. The veteran right-hander led the Cards to a 1-0 victory in an epic battle with another former Cy Young Award winner and personal friend, Roy Halladay.
The 2012 NLDS was sparked by an unlikely hero, second baseman Daniel Descalso. Despite having hit just .227 in the regular season, the then-25-year-old led the Cardinals in RBI, runs scored and tied for the lead in home runs during the LDS. He scored seven runs, launched two homers, drove in six with a slash line of .316/.333/.684/1.017 in the five-game series.
In 2013, Wainwright opened and closed the five-game LDS with wins, both at home. In the winner-take-all finale, the right-hander scattered eight hits while dominating the Pirates in a complete-game victory. In Game 1, Wainwright allowed a lone run on three hits in seven innings and drew a full-count walk that opened the team’s seven-run third-inning offensive burst.
Over his 16 innings, Wainwright yielded just two runs for a 1.13 ERA. He scattered 11 hits, walked just one and struck out 15. The Pirates batted a collective .196 against our 2013 NLDS MVP.
In 2014, Matt Carpenter took the honors. In each of the first three games of the series against the Dodgers, the left-handed hitting third baseman both doubled and homered. His hits tied one game and put the Cards ahead in two others.
The then-28-year-old finished the four-game set with a line of .375/.412/1.125/1.537. Carpenter went 6-for-16, with all three hits going for extra bases. He drew one walk, scored four runs and plated seven.
With the Chicago Cubs taking the 2015 LDS, again a Cardinals MVP was not given. But that was then and this is now.
Thanks to the leadership of Goldschmidt and Ozuna (and all of their teammates), the Championship Series is just ahead.
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