Every MVP since the year 2000, ranked

Drafting the 40 MVPs from 2000-'19

April 19th, 2020

With no baseball games happening right now, we've been looking back at some of the best players and teams in recent history, and having a lot of fun ranking them. So, as MLB.com's Will Leitch and Mike Petriello recently did by ranking the past 25 World Series champions, it's time to look at 21st century Most Valuable Player selections. Given the two leagues, that's 40 different picks, but obviously not 40 different players, since a few all-time stars won multiple awards. The fun thing about choosing these is that even the No. 40 pick, the one we deemed the weakest, was still a shortstop who hit 34 home runs for a 103-win team. There are no bad players here ... just maybe a few bad selections.

Will gets the first pick. All Wins Above Replacement numbers via FanGraphs.

1. Barry Bonds (2001)
.328/.515/.863, 73 HR, 259 OPS+, 12.5 WAR

Leitch: So, the only real question with the first pick of this draft is: Which Bonds season do you want? Mike, you might disagree, but I think it comes down to two. Do you go with 2004, when he somehow had a .609 OBP? Or do you go with '01, when he had a pathetic, sad, oh-so-terrible .515 OBP, but, ah yes, happened to hit more home runs in a season than any human ever has and quite possibly ever will? As morbidly entertaining as watching him walk over and over and over for several seasons was -- when pitchers realized, “Yep, I’m not getting posterized by this dude” -- I’ll take the season where he hit all the dingers. Give me all the dingers.

2. Barry Bonds (2002)
.370/.582/.799, 46 HR, 268 OPS+, 12.7 WAR

Petriello: Here’s my favorite things about the way you started this: First, is it so obvious that it’s going to be Bonds and not Mike Trout? (Checks stats: Ah. Yes. It is. Carry on.) Second, while there’s not really a “wrong answer” to “which Bonds year was the most insane,” I do enjoy that you mentioned 2001 and ‘04, while I’m actually going to go with ‘02, the year when he hit "only" 46 homers, but had the most non-Ruth WAR ever (12.7, from FanGraphs) and the highest Weighted Runs Created Plus ever (244). Ever! There’s a decent argument this is literally the best season of all time.

I, uh, think I know where you’re going next.

3. Barry Bonds (2004)
.362/.609/.812, 45 HR, 263 OPS+, 11.9 WAR

Leitch: Mike. MIKE! This is the steal of the draft. Look at what Bonds did in 2004:

• In 617 plate appearances, he walked 232 times. 232!

• 120 of those were intentional walks. Here’s a fun fact about that number: Trout, widely considered to have one of the greatest batting eyes in baseball history, has had more than 120 walks total once.

• He had an on-base percentage of .609. Nearly 61 percent of the time, he reached base. That isn’t just video game numbers. That’s a sport that is played on the moon, by space people.

• He had a 1.422 OPS, the highest of his career.

• He had more homers than strikeouts, the only year in his career he did that.

Barry Bonds, from 2001-04, broke baseball. But in '04, I think he actually turned it into a different sport entirely. I’m pretty sure he was intentionally walked in games he wasn’t even playing in. It’s absurdity.

4. Barry Bonds (2003)
.341/.529/.749, 45 HR, 231 OPS+, 10.2 WAR

Petriello: I just got annoyed all over again that the Trout years I really wanted, 2012 and ‘13, aren’t available here because he didn’t win the MVP. Still furious. Definitely the most important thing in the world to be focused on right now. Anyway, I guess I’ll go with the “worst” Bonds MVP year, where he hit “only” .341/.529/.749 and “only” had 10.2 WAR while smashing another 45 homers.

The fun thing about this year is that he put up those counting stats in only 130 games; the other fun thing about this year is that in August, he hit a no-really-look-at-this .452/.629/1.024. By OPS, it is the third-greatest month, minimum 50 plate appearances, in baseball history. The first two? Bonds, April ‘04, and Bonds, Sept. ‘01. (Reminder: Bonds won a total of seven MVPs, but the first three came in the previous century, 1990, '92, and '93. He also finished second in '91 and 2000, and probably should have won both of those.)

5. Mike Trout (2016)
.315/.441/.550, 29 HR, 30 SB, 172 OPS+, 9.7 WAR

Leitch: I am certain a specific segment of the baseball fanbase is just going to be joyous that our first four spots here were all taken up by Bonds. Now that we’ve exhausted all those, it’s Trout time. As you mentioned, you could argue his two best seasons were not MVP years -- though, to be fair, he did only play in 114 games one of those years, and now I’m thinking about how few he might play this year and how we’re missing peak Trout and I’m crying all over again -- but of the years he won, I’ll go with 2016. It’s the most games he played in his career (159), which, considering his consistency, is sort of a tiebreaker? This was the year he led the American League in runs, walks, OBP and almost got a 30-30 season. And I’m still not sure this was the best season of his career.

Anyway, choosing between Trout MVP seasons is sort of like choosing in between my children, in that those MVP seasons are stuck in my house making a ton of noise all day. Wait, sorry, wrong analogy. Point is: I love them all equally.

6. Mookie Betts (2018)
.346/.438/.640, 32 HR, 30 SB, 186 OPS+, 10.4 WAR

Petriello: Every time Trout doesn’t win the MVP, I get a little annoyed by it -- my favorite one of these was back in 2012 when at least one writer voting for Miguel Cabrera said he’d done so because the Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels didn’t, even though the Tigers (88 wins) had fewer wins than the Angels (89 wins), and no, I definitely haven’t been stewing on that for years -- so it says a lot that when Betts won in ‘18, I wasn’t bothered by it. He was that good. Even if a big contributor to his victory was that his Boston teammates were far, far better than Trout's Angels colleagues.

My snark about Betts having better teammates aside -- irrefutably true though that may be -- he, in ‘18, had something like "the perfect year." Elite hitting? Check; his .346/.438/.640 slash line (with 32 homers) has been topped in Red Sox history only by Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, and Tris Speaker. Speed? Sure; he added 30 swipes, only the second 30/30 season in Boston history. Excellent defense? Absolutely; he’s won four straight Gold Gloves, and his +11 Outs Above Average that year was a Top 10 mark. (He is clearly a better defender than Trout is, by a lot.)

Put it together, and Betts put together a 10.4 WAR season that was legitimately one of the top 40 or so of all time. Yeah, he deserved this one.

7. Bryce Harper (2015)
.330/.460/.649, 42 HR, 198 OPS+, 9.3 WAR

Leitch: Why do you give a 13-year contract to Bryce Harper? Because it’s almost worth it, whatever the cost, just to get another season like this again. For all the talk of Trout obviously long surpassing Harper after years of being compared to each other in the Minors, it’s worth noting that you can make a case that no single Trout year has been quite as great as this Harper year was. This is the season that keeps you believing, just as it is the season that Harper, five years later, may never live down. You see what he’s capable of. You expect him to repeat it. And perfectly fine years seem inadequate. But my goodness: Not being able to approach this fantastic of a season is no crime. It just feels like one sometimes.

8. Alex Rodriguez (2007)
.314/.422/.645, 54 HR, 24 SB, 176 OPS+, 9.6 WAR

Petriello: Thanks for taking my clear next pick, Will. I guess I’ll have to settle for … one of the greatest seasons from one of the greatest players to ever play. (I know, we’re full of Bonds and Rodriguez up in here. Please direct your complaints to the nearest open window.) A-Rod, in ‘07, hit 54 home runs and set career highs in slugging (.645) and OPS (1.067), and he did so while playing a roughly average defensive third base. (He stole 24 bases, for good measure.) Somehow, he didn’t win this unanimously, because two voters went for Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who had a great year, but hit half as many homers and stole four bases for a non-playoff team. He did hit .363, but it wasn’t that; both Ordonez voters were from Michigan. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Democracy simply doesn’t work.

9. Mike Trout (2019)
.291/.438/.645, 45 HR, 185 OPS+, 8.6 WAR

Leitch: Like everybody else in baseball, Trout veered toward the longball in 2019. He was under .300 for the first time since 2015, but he reached an all-time high in homers (45) and I bet he would have reached 50 if he hadn’t had a couple of injuries. This turned out to be a rather busy year for Trout: He signed a massive extension, won his third MVP and … played for his worst team since entering the Majors. Having the 2020 season delayed is hard for all of us, but it must be especially frustrating for Trout.

10. Miguel Cabrera (2013)
.348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 190 OPS+, 8.6 WAR

Petriello: This was not the Triple Crown year. For as much weight as “the Triple Crown” carries, realize that Cabrera’s ‘13 was much better than his Triple Crown ‘12:

2012: .330/.393/.606, 44 homers, 164 OPS+
2013: .348/.442/.636, 44 homers, 190 OPS+

Because he’s a first baseman/DH without a great deal of defensive value, he’s never posted the eye-popping WAR totals that Trout and Betts have, but other than a few long-ago Ty Cobb years, this was basically the best hitting season in Tigers history. This guy is an inner-circle, absolutely-no-doubt-about-it, top-10-righty-hitter-of-all-time Hall of Famer … and this was the best version of himself.

11. Albert Pujols (2009)
.327/.443/.658, 47 HR, 189 OPS+, 8.4 WAR

Leitch: The final of Pujols’ three MVPs, this season is virtually indistinguishable from his 2008 season, which I’m really hoping I get to draft next. He had a little more power this season, and played in 12 more games, which is enough to make the difference for me. One of the many reasons I’ve never liked all the questions about Pujols’ age is that his aging curve has been rather normal: Awesome in his early 20s, at his peak in the late 20s and falling off in his mid-to-late 30s. He was 29 in 2009 and carried a Cardinals team that wasn’t really all that good to the National League Central title. (And was the central showcase at the All-Star Game in St. Louis as well.) Some wondered whether anyone would pony up for a soon-to-hit-free-agency Pujols in his 30s. His '09 season reminded you just what he was still capable of … and seemingly would be capable of forever.

12. Cody Bellinger (2019)
.305/.406/.629, 47 HR, 15 SB, 169 OPS+, 7.8 WAR

Petriello: Let’s just lean into some recency bias here. We probably got a little too sucked into the fact that Bellinger was hitting .400 until nearly the end of May, but listen, here we have a 24-year-old who: A) mashed 47 home runs; B) had nearly an even strikeout/walk ratio, and C) played outstanding defense at first base, center field and right field, winning a Gold Glove in the outfield. Who does that? He stole 15 bases, too. I like my well-rounded players, clearly.

13. Albert Pujols (2008)
.357/.462/.653, 37 HR, 192 OPS+, 8.7 WAR

Leitch: He had a higher OBP and OPS this season than in ‘09, but he loses a bit for playing 12 fewer games and the Cardinals missing the playoffs. That the Cardinals missed the playoffs nearly cost Pujols in the voting this year; this was back when people were still pretending Pujols and St. Louis native Ryan Howard were comparable. They weren’t, but even though Howard had already stolen one MVP that Pujols deserved, he almost got another one this season, too. Pujols finished second to Bonds already; if Bonds didn’t exist and Howard hadn’t swiped one, Pujols could have an armful of trophies himself.

14. Alex Rodriguez (2005)
.321/.421/.610, 48 HR, 21 SB, 173 OPS+, 9.1 WAR

Petriello: I already had A-Rod’s ‘07, so I might as well take his ‘05, since it’s more or less a carbon copy year. (He had 48 homers this year as opposed to 54; he had a .421 OBP vs. a .422 OBP. It’s not hard to find excellent Rodriguez seasons.) I completely accept that, like Bonds, he's always going to be viewed through a very tilted lens, and that's on no one but him. And yet: From day one, he was so, so good. Rodriguez had four or five seasons this good or better. He had 15 seasons where he was worth four-plus wins. Fifteen! In the world of WAR, two-win is considered an "average" season, and four-win is "All-Star." Fifteen times!

15. Alex Rodriguez (2003)
.298/.396/.600, 47 HR, 17 SB, 147 OPS+, 9.2 WAR

Leitch: You’ve clearly taken the correct Rodriguez seasons first, but I’ll harken back to his first one, the one he won with Texas, the one back when no one really disliked him yet. (Or at least just Mariners fans.) After being absolutely robbed in 2002 by Miguel Tejada, A-Rod put up another terrific season the next year and still almost lost, this time to Carlos Delgado, who had 145 RBIs. A-Rod finally earned his first one, annoying Delgado to no end: "Obviously, I was expecting to get the award and that wasn't the case," he said. "If they were going to pick somebody from a team that did not make it to the playoffs I think it would have given me an edge, but that's what I get for thinking, I guess." Yeah. That’s what you get for thinking, Carlos!

16. Josh Hamilton (2010)
.359/.411/.633, 32 HR, 170 OPS+, 8.4 WAR

Petriello: For all of the what-ifs and could-have-beens about the well-chronicled issues that sidetracked Hamilton’s career and life, this was The Year. It wasn’t his only good year, because he also received MVP votes in three other seasons, in the midst of five straight All-Star selections, but, despite missing a few weeks with a rib injury, this was the year that made you stand up and realize what all the hype and patience had been about. Hamilton posted career bests across the board (.359/.411/.633), then mashed against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, hitting four home runs (to go with eight walks and three other hits) in 28 plate appearances.

17. Mike Trout (2014)
.287/.377/.561, 36 HR, 168 OPS+, 8.3 WAR

Leitch: I will confess: I am in large part just making sure I get all three Trout MVP seasons here. But here’s my favorite factoid about this particular Trout MVP season: It is probably the worst of his entire career? It is, right? Lowest OBP and batting average he has ever put up, and by far the most strikeouts: This is the year he started whittling those down, too. It is absolutely wild that Mike Trout’s worst-ever season is better than more than half the MVPs won this century. By a lot, in fact!

18. Christian Yelich (2018)
.326/.402/.598, 36 HR, 164 OPS+, 7.6 WAR

Petriello: Wait, I missed *all* of the Trout seasons? (*Endless scream into the void.*) What a massive misstep on my part. I suppose I will have to console myself with the Yelich breakout that featured a perfect 1.000 OPS, along with 36 home runs and -- what no one remembers -- 22 stolen bases. I think people assume this was just about moving out of cavernous Marlins Park to hitter-friendly Miller Park, and to be sure, it’s not not that. But it’s also about the top story of the last few years: Batter who hits the ball hard (Yelich had a 98th percentile hard-hit rate in ‘18) gets the ball off the ground (he cut his grounder rate from 64 percent in ‘15 to 53 percent in ‘18 and 43 percent in ‘19).

Unlike some of the launch angle proselytizers like Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, Yelich claims he’s not even trying to do it. It doesn’t matter! He did it! And then: His ‘19 season was even better! This one was pretty good, though.

19. Albert Pujols (2005)
.330/.430/.609, 41 HR, 168 OPS+, 7.7 WAR

Leitch: This was the first Pujols MVP Award, the first year he got a break from Bonds, who only played 14 games this year. This was Pujols in Destroyer of Worlds mode, no longer in the shadow of Mark McGwire, no longer an MV3 with Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. The irony of this season is that he might have been better in both 2004 and '06, but you’re just splitting hairs there. This may seem impossible to imagine now, but Pujols stole 16 bases this season. (He’d do it again four years later.) But when you think of Pujols in '05, the MVP probably isn’t the first thing to come to your mind. That would be this ...

20. Giancarlo Stanton (2017)
.281/.376/.631, 59 HR, 169 OPS+, 7.3 WAR

Petriello: I mean, if you’re going to leave me with 59 home runs, I am going to take 59 home runs. This season, in retrospect, is somewhat hilarious, because for all of Stanton’s obvious power, he has never actually hit more than 38 home runs in a season, except for this one year. (Look it up: He’s got zero home run seasons that start with a 4. There’s some fun bar trivia for you.)

It does appear that at the time, I strongly supported Joey Votto over Stanton for this one, and as it turned out, they each received 10 first-place votes. Can I choose Votto here? I cannot? Carry on.

21. Clayton Kershaw (2014)
198 1/3 IP, 1.77 ERA, 1.81 FIP, 10.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 7.9 WAR

Leitch: Probably time to break the pitcher’s seal, and what better pitcher to do it with? What’s funny about this season is that it looked like it would be Kershaw’s peak in every possible way: A 21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 10.8 K/9. (It also helps that there were no obvious runaway winners going against him: Jonathan Lucroy finished fourth this year.) But when you put this year against the rest of Kershaw’s career, it’s … just another year. Another brilliant year, of course. But from 2011-17, they all looked like this. At least they got him an MVP for one of them.

22. Ichiro Suzuki (2001)
.350/.381/.457, 8 HR, 56 SB, 126 OPS+, 6.0 WAR

Petriello: It’s not like we’re suffering any extreme shortage of Ichiro praise around here, but still, this is going to go down as one of the most remarkable seasons in Major League history. Suzuki became one of only two players (after Fred Lynn in ‘75) to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same year, but not only was it his first year in the Majors, it was his first year in America. Remember, at the time, most of the successful Japanese players to come to the Majors had been pitchers, like Hideo Nomo. There were more than a few questions, fairly or not, about whether a Japanese hitter could play every day and be successful. Ichiro answered those and then some, helping to open the door for Hideki Matsui, Norichika Aoki and others.

There’s a few years in baseball history that seem to transcend sports entirely, and this was one of them. Suzuki was a true superstar in ways few players have ever been, in year one … and then he played in 18 additional seasons. (Side note here: The ‘01 Mariners were the team that won 116 games, and it’s always fun to remind people that other than Edgar Martinez, almost none of the '90s Seattle heroes were still around -- Griffey, Rodriguez and Johnson had all moved on, and a 36-year-old Jay Buhner got into only 19 games.)

He is, as far as I am concerned, the true Hit King. Come at me, Rose truthers.

23. Joe Mauer (2009)
.365/.444/.587, 28 HR, 171 OPS+, 8.4 WAR

Leitch: Imagine if one year, Tony Gwynn just up and hit 28 homers out of nowhere? (Oh, and he caught?) That’s what Mauer’s 2009 was like. The guy was a consistent .300 hitter with a terrific batting eye, and then, in '09, BAM, 28 homers. It’s not like he forgot how to do everything else, either: He still hit a career-high .365, with a .444 OBP. He also won a Gold Glove. That was the one year he had such power: He’d never go over 11 the rest of his career. But that season, Mauer was everything. I sort of think he might be a steal this late.

24. Miguel Cabrera (2012)
.330/.393/.606, 44 HR, 164 OPS+, 7.3 WAR

Petriello: Yes, yes, the Triple Crown year. I somehow referenced this twice already, in pick No. 6 (about the playoff Tigers winning fewer games than the non-playoff Angels that year), and in pick No. 10 (about how Cabrera’s ‘13 was better than his ‘12). I think it says a great deal about how incredible of a hitter Cabrera is, and was, that you can have a Triple Crown year and still pretty easily say, “Meh, he was better the next year.” He was! And yet! A Triple Crown is still a big deal.

25. Joey Votto (2010)
.324/.424/.600, 37 HR, 171 OPS+, 6.9 WAR

Leitch: I’m never going to have a Hall of Fame vote, but you are someday, Mike, and someday soon. So I am going to implore you to fly the flag for Votto, one of my favorite players and as indicative of the 2000s style of baseball as anyone in the sport. You cannot score if you cannot get on base, and no one over the last decade-plus has been better at getting on base than Joey Votto. (He’s also hilarious.) This was not actually one of Votto’s better years, at least OBP-wise; he’d have five better ones than this, even though his .424 still led the Majors. So why did he win this year? A career-high 37 homers, 113 RBIs and … wait, did he steal 16 bases? Also, the Reds won the NL Central, giving him that Leader gloss. But Votto is all about the quiet, brilliant consistency. He should either have all the MVPs, or none of them. This one will have to suffice.

26. Josh Donaldson (2015)
.297/.371/.568, 41 HR, 151 OPS+, 8.7 WAR

Petriello: My Hall of Fame vote won’t arrive until five years from now. In the meantime, let’s pour one out for Donaldson’s 2015, another entry in the “I can’t believe Trout didn’t win but the other guy was so good that I can’t even be all that mad about it" pantheon. Donaldson broke out in ‘13, and was good again in ‘14, but in ‘15, he became Destroyer Of All Worlds Donaldson, thanks to 41 home runs for what now looks like, in retrospect, one of the more fun teams to watch in the last 20 years. (That ‘15 Jays team had the José Bautista bat flip, but also Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnación, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, rookie Marcus Stroman and summer trade pickup David Price. Just a tremendously enjoyable team to watch.)

27. Ryan Braun (2011)
.332/.397/.597, 33 HR, 33 SB, 166 OPS+, 7.1 WAR

Leitch: The 2011 Brewers were awesome. They had Prince Fielder hitting 38 homers, all-time fun guys like Zack Greinke, John Axford and LaTroy Hawkins and even won 96 games despite starting Yuniesky Betancourt 152 times. But the reason they won the NL Central -- and probably would have gone to the World Series had they not run into that #blessed Cardinals team -- was Braun, who looked, for all the world, like the next Robin Yount at this point. Perennial All-Star, Golden Boy, recipient of a long-term contract that would keep him in Milwaukee for his whole career, it looked like nothing could ever go wrong for him. Then came December of this year … when it all came crashing down. He did end up spending the rest of the decade in Milwaukee, though!

28. Buster Posey (2012)
.336/.408/.549, 24 HR, 171 OPS+, 10.1 WAR

Petriello: Did you know that Posey’s 2012 was the single greatest season by a catcher in baseball history? This comes with some caveats the size of San Francisco Bay, namely that framing value is iffy or non-existent as you go back further into baseball history, but even though we looked at FanGraphs there, Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus each have it as a top six all-time catcher season, and look, we’re into matters of degree here, aren’t we? Posey hit .336/.408/.549 in '12, more or less tying him with Trout and Cabrera for “the best hitter in baseball that season,” he did it while playing truly outstanding defense, and, don’t forget, this was his first year back after 2011’s devastating broken leg. It would have been perfectly understandable if he needed some time to ramp back up. Instead, he put up an all-time great season for a World Series winner. I should have drafted this one a dozen spots higher.

29. Andrew McCutchen (2013)
.317/.404/.508, 21 HR, 27 SB, 157 OPS+, 8.1 WAR

Leitch: McCutchen was never quite the upper-tier superstar we all thought and wanted him to be. He has just been an excellent player every year, which, now that I think about it, should probably be our qualification for “upper-tier.” 2013 was a weird MVP season: No incredible years from anyone, probably the best case either Paul Goldschmidt or Yadier Molina would ever have for an MVP, and the most truly enjoyable Pirates team since the days of Bonds. (I will never forget those postseason hockey crowds.) McCutchen is the type of guy who deserves at least one MVP in his career but never gets one. I’m glad he got this one.

30. Kris Bryant (2016)
.292/.385/.554, 39 HR, 146 OPS+, 7.9 WAR

Petriello: This one, in a lot of ways, felt pre-ordained. Bryant was the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, the unanimous Rookie of the Year in '15, and then the near-unanimous MVP in '16 (Daniel Murphy received a single vote). It’s the obvious career path for a guy who was clearly going to be a superstar years before he was even drafted. He earned it, too, mashing 39 homers and hitting .292/.385/.554, an eight-win season that stands, then as now, as one of the 10 best in Cubs history. And, of course, he was the best player on the team that finally won the ring. So why doesn’t this one feel like it should be higher? It’s partially because this wasn’t a year full of great seasons in the NL, so while Bryant’s year was obviously very good, it didn’t have a ton of competition. It’s partially because that due to injuries, he’s been more “very good” than “great” over the last few seasons, like his team. But for that one magical year, he was everything we expected he’d be, and more. Let’s hope it’s not the last time we see it.

31. José Altuve (2017)
.346/.410/.547, 24 HR, 32 SB, 160 OPS+, 7.6 WAR

Leitch: Confession! I actually ranked every MVP winner ever a couple of years ago, and Altuve was pretty high up the list! I’ve drafted many players below him on that list in this here draft, for reasons that are probably pretty obvious. I’m sure people are going to yell at me anyway, and all told, I do think maybe Aaron Judge should have won. (Mike's note: Yepppppppppp.)

But even if you think Altuve had some help that year -- and I feel obliged to point out that nothing like that has been proven at all -- 2017 was a career year for a most unconventional player who had been building up a bit of a Hall of Fame resume at that point. (For a team that, yes, won a World Series.) As much as people might like to, you cannot physically take an MVP trophy away from someone. Altuve won this. And it was a terrific year. And everyone was cheering for him back then too. I’m not the judge, jury and executioner here: I'm just a dude drafting dudes. And I’ll happily draft this dude. Everyone can start yelling now.

32. Jason Giambi (2000)
.333/.476/.647, 43 HR, 187 OPS+, 7.7 WAR

Petriello: I’m not sure about you, Will, but here is about the point where I feel like we’re getting into some seasons that don’t hold up as well, or that I’m less excited about drafting. Maybe that’s partially due to getting back into the early days of the century, where we valued things differently. That's how I feel about this Giambi season, where he obviously mashed -- .333/.476/.647 with 43 homers -- but did so as a first baseman/DH. Meanwhile, Rodriguez mashed 41 homers of his own, hitting an only slightly-worse .316/.420/.606, while playing a good shortstop. (Also, Pedro Martinez had one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time. Giambi finished fifth in WAR, with Rodriguez and Martinez nearly two wins ahead of him. Interestingly enough, the man who got the second-most first place votes was another first base/DH masher with 43 homers: Frank Thomas.)

Let’s not downplay this too much. Giambi destroyed baseballs. It was one of the greatest hitting displays in A’s history. I’m just pretty sure that if this vote was redone today, he’s not winning this again.

33. Vladimir Guerrero (2004)
.337/.391/.598, 39 HR, 157 OPS+, 5.9 WAR

Leitch: Vlad only finished in the top three of MVP voting twice, and this was the first time. I wonder if he got some voting love because, playing in Anaheim outside of being lost in Montreal all that time, everyone nationally at last got a full blast of the Vlad experience. This was pretty much a normal Vlad year, like all the rest of them, but getting the national exposure he’d lacked before then, for a team that won its division, made him feel new … like it was finally his time. I suppose it was. Will his son end up getting one too?

34. Dustin Pedroia (2008)
.326/.376/.493, 17 HR, 20 SB, 123 OPS+, 6.4 WAR

Petriello: Now here is an MVP season I definitely remember, so long as there are no follow-up questions whatsoever. Looking back, this was a pretty splintered vote, with five different AL players receiving a first-place vote, and few truly great seasons. (Only one player, Grady Sizemore, even reached 7 WAR.) This was the year after Pedroia won Rookie of the Year while helping the Sox win their second ring in four years, and in ‘08, he also won the Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove while making the All-Star team, as Boston won the Wild Card. He’d become legitimately famous. That probably helped. (As, obviously, did the MLB-leading 213 hits and 54 doubles.)

Pedroia’s 2011 season was superior in almost every way. He received zero first-place votes and finished ninth. Awards ballots are weird.

35. Justin Verlander (2011)
251 IP, 2.40 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 6.5 WAR

Leitch: Verlander’s MVP always looks a lot like Kershaw’s to me: I’m not sure any pitcher should ever be winning the MVP, but if someone’s got to, let it be someone who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame. Verlander was brilliant in 2011, though: Career highs in wins and innings pitched, and the best ERA and highest strikeout totals until he showed up in Houston late in his career and went nuclear. This was also a split vote year, with no other standouts (Jacoby Ellsbury finished second); that tends to be required for a pitcher to win. But Verlander has an MVP that he’ll get to show off when he goes into Cooperstown, and few pitchers have earned the right to say that more.

36. Ryan Howard (2006)
.313/.425/.659, 58 HR, 167 OPS+, 5.9 WAR

Petriello: I know that after all this time, we have a certain view of Howard. We think of him as one of the last pure-slug defensively-limited first basemen in a game that no longer values that type of player, as the last lingering face of a Phillies mini-dynasty that didn’t know it was over until three years after it was, and we remember the ill-fated-from-the-moment-it-was-handed-out contract that was signed in 2010 but didn’t kick in until '12 -- after he’d torn his Achilles ending the 2011 NL Division Series. But there was a time, let’s call it from 2005-09, where Howard was very legitimately one of baseball’s most feared sluggers. (The Phillies even traded Jim Thome after the ‘05 season to make room for him.)

After winning the ‘05 Rookie of the Year in a mere 88 games played, ‘06 was Howard’s absolute peak, crushing 58 home runs -- a number topped only 10 times in history -- with a .313/.425/.659 line. He even hit lefties that year, posting a .923 OPS against them. Howard didn’t win it unanimously, because this was a Peak Pujols season, too, and we know that his career trajectory took a turn. But let’s not let any of that overshadow what a legitimately great season this was.

37. Justin Morneau (2006)
.321/.375/.559, 34 HR, 140 OPS+, 3.8 WAR

Leitch: I still cannot believe Derek Jeter didn’t win the MVP this year. He hit .343, he stole a career-high 34 bases, he led an only-OK-for-them Yankees team to 97 wins and he won a Gold Glove. (Ahem.) And he’s Derek Jeter! This award was begging to be given to him. The voters instead went with Morneau, who had a perfectly fine year for a surprising Twins team that went ahead and got swept in the ALDS anyway, like it always does. Morneau’s concussion issues kept him from having as good a career as he should have, but still, this vote has aged very badly.

38. Jeff Kent (2000)
.334/.424/.596, 33 HR, 162 OPS+, 7.4 WAR

Petriello: Oh, we’re here for “votes that aged badly?” Cracks knuckles ... Let’s do this. Kent was a very good player for a very long time, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who has the most all-time home runs from a second baseman. He also won the MVP in a year when he wasn’t even the best player on his own team.

Kent, 2000: .334/.424/.596, with 33 homers
Bonds, 2000: .306/.440/.688, with 49 homers

Maybe it was that Kent had a higher batting average or more RBI, numbers that were more important 20 years ago. Maybe it was that Giants manager Dusty Baker publicly said that he would have voted for Kent, if he’d had a ballot. But all these years later, this one’s a little hard to swallow. He was still a better choice than Morneau, though. I win this battle.

(Besides, let’s be honest: Colorado first baseman Todd Helton should have won this. No Rockie ever will.)

39. Jimmy Rollins (2007)
.296/.344/.531, 30 HR, 41 SB, 119 OPS+, 6.5 WAR

Leitch: This feels like the sort of MVP you’d give in the ‘80s, when someone had a good year for a great team and you decided to reward him for it. Think Barry Larkin, or, well, the guy picked last in this draft. Rollins is a likable player who was a clear leader for a fun team, but he also led the league in outs made. If anything, he won this because the Mets collapsed in the final week, costing David Wright … who probably had a better case. All told, though, I have to give it to the voters. There are some wrong choices here, including this one, but there are no egregious mistakes this century.

40. Miguel Tejada (2002)
.308/.354/.508, 34 HR, 128 OPS+, 4.5 WAR

Petriello: And so it’s come to this. Tejada had a perfectly fine year. He hit .308/.354/.508 with 34 homers, and he did it playing shortstop for a team that won 103 games. (That’s right, the Moneyball A’s did actually have some star players aside from the spare parts bin.) That’s all well and good. Except … this was the year Alex Rodriguez hit 57 homers with a .300/.392/.623 line, also playing shortstop, piling up 154 extra points of OPS and nearly three full extra wins of WAR. I accept that no one was using WAR in 2002, but this came down entirely to “the Rangers lost 90 games.” Tejada finished 17th in OPS that year, and 20th in WAR. (In the AL! Not in the Majors!) But hey, at least he had Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito as teammates.