Lenny Dykstra was certainly the most valuable player of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. To this day some will argue that he should have been the Most Valuable Player in the National League that year, but that may be a bit of homer bias speaking, tugging at the heart of that “Whatever It Takes, Dude” philosophy that plays well in Philadelphia.
Simply put, Barry Bonds had a better overall season in his first year in San Francisco and his power numbers more than pulled Bonds ahead of Dykstra when it came time to tally the votes for the NL MVP award. His argument may have carried some weight at the time, with the Giants starting September with a 4.5 game lead on the Atlanta Braves, who were still oddly in the NL West at the time. The Giants lost the NL West by one game and Bonds had his worst month in terms of offensive production since June. Of course, Bonds still hit .300 and walked a season high for a month 24 times. If the Giants sturggled in the clutch, it is hard to pit the entire blame on Bonds.
But what should be the criteria for determining the MVP? Is it the player who has the best individual season or the player that does the most to get his team in the win column. Even if you consider that as a more important trait and that it would play in Dykstra’s favor, it turns out Bonds would have a solid argument there as well.
Dykstra scored more runs out of the leadoff spot in the Phillies lineup, with guys like Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Dave Hollins and more having career years to that point. It can be risky to compare players from different decades, especially when you are talking about a 15-year difference, but Jimmy Rollins had a career high 94 RBI in his MVP season of 2007, but he has averaged 65.5 RBI per season since playing on a full-time basis. Rollins, of course, has been the primary lead off hitter for the Phillies for the majority of his career. Compared to the rest of his team, Dykstra was third in batting average and home runs, sixth in RBI and second in OPS.
Dykstra’s role on the Phillies was to set the table for the offense. Bonds’ role was to drive everyone home in the middle of the lineup for the Giants. Bonds was more set up for power numbers, which are easy to sway voters, but he earned the votes he received.
Bonds saw most of his numbers increase as well. After playing seven seasons in Pittsburgh Bonds signed with the San Francisco Giants, taking advantage of the atmosphere by the bay to hit a career high of 46 home runs in his first year out on the west coast.
While the Phillies did indeed have a worst-to-first seaso in 1993, en route to a World Series appearance, the Giants had a similar win-differential once adding Bonds. The Phillies picked up 27 wins between 1992 and 1993 (70 wins to 97 wins) but the Giants went from 72 wins to 103 wins, a 31 game upswing. The only difference in the regular lineup for the Giants was Bonds, who replaced former Phillie Chris James in left field.
Dykstra once said to reporters that he felt he deserved the MVP more than Bonds because when the calendar hit October his team was playing and Bonds’ was not. Of course it is a faulty logic because a number of MVP winners have not been on a playoff team before and after Bonds in 1993.
Bonds has certainly seen his image go down a well late in his career and in recent years, but in 1993 it appeared that Bonds was a naturally gifted as ever. That may have been true, because all indications are that Bonds was tempted to get an extra advantage a few years later, following the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa sage. As far as we know, Bonds performed on level in 1993. As fate would have it, we might not be able to say the same about Dykstra.
Dykstra had one of the best seasons any Philadelphia Phillie ever had. But Bonds had a better season in San Francisco.