"Until they beat the [San Francisco] Giants in that playoff, they won only six more games than the Cardinals," he said. "I mean, it wasn't as if they won the division. Mac was penalized basically because the Cubs had [an effective relief pitcher in] Rod Beck and the Cardinals had [an ineffective relief pitcher in] Jeff Brantley. I also couldn't fathom looking back years from now and trying to figure out how a guy who hit 70 homers, drove in 147 runs and had a .752 slugging percentage wasn't the MVP."
In that context, Eisenbath said he was flabbergasted that anyone could vote McGwire sixth or seventh.
"Was it a reaction to that whole androstenedione controversy?" he said. "Was someone mistreated by Mac along the way? I can't imagine those votes were based on performance unless someone took this issue of how the team did to extreme. . . ."
In placing McGwire seventh on his ballot, Joel Sherman of the New York Post said he would have had McGwire first if this was a player-of-the-year award. But "the mandate is to select the most valuable player, and as astonishing and historic as McGwire's season was, his team was never in the race. We always hear players saying they'd trade their stats for a chance to be in the playoffs, and the players I had one through six had a much more direct correlation to [their team having won] and thus, were more valuable."
Five of the six, Sherman said, were on playoff teams, and the sixth, Jeff Kent of the Giants, was on a team that tied the Cubs for the wild-card berth.
On and off the field it has been a lively debate that Sosa, who received a $250,000 bonus for winning, and McGwire are likely to resume in 1999.
"I know I can't have a year like 1998 every year," Sosa said, "but I believe in myself, I have a lot of ability, and if I've done it once I know I can come back and do it again. I know I'll never forget '98."
Take a look back at Sammy Sosa's MVP-winning season. Photos, charts and stories of his home-run race are on The Times' Web site at http://www.latimes.com/homeruns
COMING WEST?: Reports say Mo Vaughn could join Angels as early as next week. Page 15
MOVING DAY: Arizona signs Stottlemyre for 4 years, $32 million. Page 16
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Sosa vs. McGwire
Sammy Sosa won the NL MVP award in a landslide over Mark McGwire, mainly because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals did not. But who really did the most to help his team win? A look:
Battling with runners on:
Battling with runners in scoring position:
Batting with runners in scoring position and two out:
Close and late (After sixth inning with lead or deficit of two or less)
Home runs that gave his team the lead or tied score:
Total season statistics:
Team record: 83-79
Team record: 90-73
Researched by HOUSTON MITCHELL / Los Angeles Times
Alou, Houston: 215
Vaughn, San Diego: 185
Biggio, Houston: 163