In 1965 Zoilo Versalles was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player. Zoilo Versalles was the Minnesota Twins’ shortstop who made 39 errors and fielded .950, compared to the league’s .962 for shortstops. Despite leading all major league shortstops in errors, Zoilo Versalles was a gold glove winner, but it doesn’t stop there. Zoilo Versalles struck out 122 times to lead the league. The player who led his shortstops in errors and who struck out the most times, won the MVP Award.
Positive and Negative Offensive Statistics
Zoilo Versalles batted .273, with a .319 on base average, walking only 41 times in 728 plate appearances, but he led the league in runs scored with 126, in doubles with 45, in triples with 12, in extra base hits with 76, and he stole 27 bases while being caught only 5 times. Versalles hit 19 home runs, which was pretty good for a shortstop, and batted in 77 runs. The fact that the Minnesota Twins won the pennant helped Versalles immensely, as did the fact that 1965 was not a good offensive season for the American League.
A Mediocre Offensive Season
Zoilo Versalles’ teammate, Tony Oliva, led the league with a .321 average, but Carl Yastrzemski (.312) and Vic Davilillo (.301), were the only other American Leaguers who hit at least .300. Tony Conigliaro led the league with 32 home runs and Rocky Colavito’s 108 RBIs topped all hitters. Versalles’ was not in the top ten in either category. Teams averaged only 3.94 runs a game, batting a pathetic .242, with an equally terrible .311 on base average and an almost respectable .369 slugging average.
MVP Award and Division Winners
Playing on a pennant winner used to be a great advantage for players who were being considered as the league’s most valuable player. Since the introduction of the wild card, which now produces four teams in each league that are considered “winners,” being on a playoff team is now the advantage. Of course, there have been many instances in which the MVP was not on a pennant winner or a playoff team, but it usually takes a dominant season for a player on an also ran to be MVP.
Statistics Were Not As Important
There was not much competition for Zoilo Versalles in 1965. Teammate Tony Oliva, who won the batting title, finished a distant second and Brooks Robinson was third. Jim Grant had a great season for the Twins, winning 21 while losing only 7, but he finished sixth in the voting. Another factor was that statistics played a lesser role in evaluating performances than today. Writers and fans saw flashy shortstop who hit with power and stole bases on a team that won 102 games. Versalles had 487 assists and took part in 105 double plays. There were few if any comparisons between Versalles’ fielding average and the league fielding average. Range factor was an unknown statistic.
What is an MVP?
In the absence of any player having a clearly superior season, one cannot argue about Versalles’ selection, despite his strikeouts and errors. There is no clear definition of the “Most Valuable Player.” For many, it is synonymous with the best player, but for others, it really does refer to the player who helped his team the most. Kirk Gibson and Albert Pujols are excellent illustrations. In 1988, Gibson was the MVP despite not leading the league in any offensive category. He hit .290 with 25 home runs, 76RBIs, and 120 strikeouts, but he helped Los Angeles win the Western Division title. In 2008, Pujols was clearly the best player in the league but the Cardinals were also-rans. Ryan Howard had a September that allowed the Phillies to win the Eastern Division and go on to become World Champions but Pujols won the MVP award.