This is the question that spurred the movie club idea in the first place. Basically, when Josh Hamilton won the AL Most Valuable Player award this season, it made me think about Hobbs. Could he have won the MVP in that season?
According to the film, Hobbs plays in the 1939 season. He doesn't sign with the team until the middle of May and doesn't start playing regularly until June, let's say. Then, there was the slump caused by Memo and the games he missed because of the bullet in his gut. Luckily, Bill Simmons tried to answer what Hobbs' stat line would look like in a mailbag ages ago. Here's what he came up with:
G AB R H BB K HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
115 400 92 140 75 85 44 106 .350 .447 .750
That's a pretty low total of games played, but very impressive batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentages. That's also not out of line for the time frame. In the American League from 1938 through 1941, the MVP had batting averages of .349/.381/.340/.357 and slugging percentages of .704/.671/.670/.643. So, Hobbs season would have been great, but not out of line with the rest of the league. There's also the little thing that those four MVPs were Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg and Joe D again. Not exactly slouches.
While Hobbs would have been pressed to beat out DiMaggio in the '39 season, he could have easily beaten either the '39 NL winner or the '40 winner. In '39, starter Bucky Walters won with a 27-11 record and a 2.29 ERA. The following year Frank McCormick won with a .309/.367/524 line. It's hard to judge the difference between pitchers and hitters, but I think Hobbs like would probably have beaten out Walters and could have beaten McCormick if he hadn't only played 115 games.
That's really the sticking point for Hobbs. I'm sure he had enough games to win the Rookie of the Year (if it had existed in '39), but he would have been hard-pressed to beat out McCormick's 155 games. Plus, he missed all those crucial games down the stretch. Sure, he broke a clock at Wrigley and busted the stuffing out of a ball. Did he do enough to win?
The last obstacle to him winning the award is the writers. Max Mercy was one of the most influential of the times and he couldn't stop running Hobbs down. Beginning in 1938, the Baseball Writers Association of America started polling three writers per city about who should win MVP. Now, Hobbs was certainly famous enough for all of them to hear about him and see the clips of them weighing Wonderboy. But, would they view him favorably after he proved so difficult an interview for his counterparts? Would his standoffish attitude have rubbed them the wrong way?
That's the big question. I think he probably does win it, if only because the Knights were cellar-dwellers perennially before he led them back to contention. That probably outweighs his missing games and difficulty with the writers. What do you think?
Also, feel free to discuss all the other things I brought up, like what was your favorite quote? Your favorite scene? Any casting changes? How does Redford look as a baseball player?
We also had a very narrow vote for next week's movie, with Bull Durham just edging out Major League. So, your mission for the next week is to watch Bull Durham, take notes/memorize the whole movie and come prepared to talk. No lollygagging!