Robbed by Yankees
The first such atrocity was in 1941 when Williams finished as the runner-up to Joe DiMaggio. A glance at their statistical output from that season shows a clear winner and it’s not the guy who wore pinstripes.
Williams: .406/.553/.735/1.287, 37 HR, 120 RBI, 135 R, 10.4 WAR
DiMaggio: .357/.440/.643/1.083, 30 HR, 125 RBI, 122 R, 9.4 WAR
Williams is the last major league player to hit over .400 for a season and he didn’t even win the MVP that year. He led the league in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, home runs, walks and runs scored, giving him a decisive advantage in every category aside from DiMaggio’s slight edge in RBI.
This was the year of DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak so that narrative carried him further than a .400 batting average, which had been done several times before in previous decades.
DiMaggio also benefited by playing for a 101-win Yankees team that cruised to the AL pennant. New York finished 17 games ahead of the second-place Red Sox that year. It’s not as if Williams was padding his stats for a bad team though. He clearly had the better season but the voters gave it to the best player on the best team instead of the one with the best production.
The following year was a repeat of the same story only it was a different Yankee winning the award in the sequel. Joe Gordon took home the MVP in 1942 while Williams again settled for second place. The gap between the two was even more mind-boggling this time.
Williams: .356/.499/.648/1.147, 36 HR, 137 RBI, 141 R, 10.4 WAR
Gordon: .322/.409/.491/.900, 18 HR, 103 RBI, 88 R, 7.8 WAR
Williams won the Triple Crown but that still wasn’t enough to earn the MVP. He also led the league in each of the other slash line categories plus walks, runs scored, and total bases.
DiMaggio had a bit of an off year by his incredible standards, producing a 6.4 WAR that was his lowest at the time since his rookie campaign. He finished a distant seventh on the MVP ballot but the voters felt compelled to award someone from a 103-win Yankees team. Gordon didn’t have an MVP-caliber season but he stole the award anyway. Williams was the runner-up simply because his Red Sox only won 93 games to settle for second place.