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When Rich Aurilia was the Reds' "most valuable" player

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Jason Miller

Hey guys, I think I found something that's NOT ON THE INTERNET.

Every year since 1955, the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America has given out the Ernie Lombardi Award for the most valuable Cincinnati Red. And I can't find a list of the winners on the Internet.

I did, however, find the complete list in a new book, 100 Things Reds Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Yay for books!

A few of my favorite things:

  • Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto have monopolized the Ernie Lombardi Award lately, accounting for the last six (three apiece);
  • unsurprisingly, Pete Rose has the record with five Lombardi Awards;
  • Barry Larkin and Frank Robinson are next with four Lombardi Awards apiece;
  • two players have won three straight: Joe Morgan (no surprise) and Dave Parker (surprise!);
  • two brothers have won: Bret Boone (1998) and Aaron Boone (2002); and
  • a father and son have won: Ken Griffey (1980) and Ken Griffey (2005);
  • Pitcher Mario Soto won the award in both 1982 and '83, while Hall of Famer Tony Perez and Hall of Fame candidate Dave Concepcion each won it just once.

My favorite thing, though, is the names you might not expect to see ...

1993: Joe Oliver
1997: Willie Greene
2003: Jose Guillen
2006: Rich Aurilia

Jose Guillen and Rich Aurilia? I forgot those guys even played for the Reds. Let alone were the Reds' best players, just in the last decade.

Which is the great thing about things like this. Without checking, I'm going to guess that Guillen or Aurilia wasn't actually the best Red in those seasons, but ... Well, okay. I will check.

In 2003, the Reds lost 93 games and Guillen led the club in Wins Above Replacement by a lot.

In 2006, Aurilia finished ninth on the club in Wins+, far behind pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang, and well behind outfielder Ryan Freel too.

Which is sort of my point. Anybody can look up the numbers. But when a guy like Aurilia wins an award like this, there's a story and sometimes it's more interesting than just the writers not knowing what the hell they were doing. Granted, most of us don't care enough about Rich Aurilia and the 80-82 Cincinnati Reds in 2006 to actually check. But if you're writing a history of the Reds, Aurilia's Ernie Lombardi Award is probably worth at least a brief investigation.

At the very least, somebody oughtta put this stuff on the Internet. Other teams -- and no, I don't know how many -- have their own BBWAA-sponsored MVP awards, and those are no doubt interesting too.