Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins finished ninth in American League Most Valuable Player voting, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced Thursday, a historic placing for a player on a team that struggled as Baltimore did in 2021.
Mullins’ finish was the highest by a player on a 100-loss team since pitcher Ned Garver came in second for the 1951 St. Louis Browns, who moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles three years later. The last such player to even finish in the top 10 was Boston Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski in 1965.
Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who Mullins hit a leadoff home run against in a victory that ended the Orioles’ 19-game losing streak in August, was the unanimous winner for the 2021 edition.
Mullins was certainly deserving of such recognition. He was baseball’s only player with both 30 home runs and 30 steals, becoming the first Oriole to accomplish the feat. He served as the AL’s All-Star starter in center field, was named Most Valuable Oriole and earned a Silver Slugger Award for his offensive performance.
His breakout season came two years removed from being demoted to Triple-A after serving as Baltimore’s opening day center fielder, then struggling so much with Norfolk he was against sent down to Double-A Bowie. He returned to the majors in 2020 and showed improvement, then elected to abandon switch-hitting last offseason and stick exclusively to his dominant left side.
It proved a worthwhile decision, as Mullins earned Baltimore’s highest MVP finish since Manny Machado came in fifth in 2016. Mullins appeared as high as fourth on one ballot.
An Oriole has not won MVP since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991.
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Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper was named National League MVP for the second time in his career, beating out the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto and the San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. Machado, in his third season with the Padres, placed 18th, while former Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman, in his second season with the Giants, received one 10th-place vote. Giants outfielder and former Maryland star Lamonte Wade Jr. (St. Paul’s) also received a single 10th-place vote.