November 19, 1975: Reds second baseman Joe Morgan wins the first of his two consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards. For the year, Morgan batted .327 with 17 homers, 94 rbi, 107 runs scored, 132 walks, 67 stolen bases, a .466 OBP, a .508 SLP, a .974 OPS (169 OPS+), and won the Gold Glove for his defensive play.
According to baseball-reference.com’s bullpen, Morgan’s victory was by the most overwhelming margin ever. Morgan had 21 first place votes with teammate Pete Rose getting the only other two. Morgan had 321 voting points, while runner-up Greg Luzinski had 154. Teammates Johnny Bench placed fourth and Rose fifth.
Joe Morgan was even better in 1976 when he won his second consecutive award. I don’t think there’s any question that he was the best player in baseball in both 1975 and 1976. He led the majors in OBP both years, in OPS both years, in OPS+ both years, won Gold Gloves both years, and led the majors in SLP in 1976. These two years were a culmination of improvements that Morgan made over the years. From baseball-reference.com’s bullpen section, here’s a list of Morgan achievements:
“When he’s healthy, he’s the finest ballplayer I ever played with. He could win ballgames in more ways than anybody.”– Johnny Bench.
Named to the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove Team.
Morgan was rated the #1 second baseman of all time by Bill James in his “New Historical Baseball Abstract.”
1964 MVP Texas League San Antonio Bullets
1965 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
10-time NL All-Star (1966, 1970, 1972-1979)
2-time NL MVP (1975 & 1976)
1972 All-Star Game MVP
5-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1973-1977)
NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1982)
1982 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
4-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1972, 1974, 1975 & 1976)
NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1976)
2-time NL OPS Leader (1975 & 1976)
NL Runs Scored Leader (1972)
NL Triples Leader (1971)
4-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1965, 1972, 1975 & 1980)
20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1973, 1974, 1976 & 1977)
100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1976)
100 Runs Scored Seasons: 8 (1965, 1970 & 1972-1977)
50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 5 (1972-1976)
Won two World Series with the Cincinnati Reds (1975 & 1976)
Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1990
Morgan may have been the key to the Reds World Championships in 1975 and 1976. His WAR (wins above replacement level) for 1975 was 12.0 (Johnny Bench was second at 6.5); for 1976 Morgan scored a 10.0 (Pete Rose was second at 6.7). Morgan’s 12.0 is the highest WAR rating for any Reds position player in their history and his 10.0 ties his 1972 season for the second and third best position player ratings in team history. The fourth highest rating in team history also belongs to Joe Morgan (9.9 for his 1973 season). Bluntly stated, Morgan’s 1972-76 is the best five-year performance of any player in Reds history. (The highest rated season in Cincinnati history is pitcher Will White’s 1882 when he scored a 12.2 when White was 40-12 for a team that only played 80 games.)
For those five seasons, Morgan finished fourth in MVP voting in both 1972-73, eighth in 1974, and won in both 1975-76. In eight years with the Reds, Morgan batted .288 with 152 homers, 816 runs scored, 612 rbi, 881 walks, 406 stolen bases, a .415 OBP, an .885 OPS, and a 147 OPS+. For his career, Morgan played 22 seasons, batting .271 with 268 homers, 1133 rbi, 689 stolen bases, a .392 OBP, and an .819 OPS (1322 OPS+). He was selected to play in ten all-star games and won five Gold Gloves.