Baseball fans got special treatment in the New York Times Christmas edition, thanks to a column by Tyler Kepner. Her gift to us was a quiz of fifty questions on baseball trivia, thirty of which I answered correctly.
The question that intrigued me the most was the one about the history of the MVP awards, an answer that required five names. This number represents the number of MVPs whose first and last names both contained four letters, and I’m proud to say I’ve identified all five: Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, Vida Blue, Fred Lynn, and Jeff Kent.
Even without these five MVPs, you could build a great team of players whose first and last names are exactly four letters long. Here is what such a list might look like.
Left-handed starting pitcher: Rich Hill
He teamed up with Clayton Kershaw to give the Dodgers a great pair of lefties, which was a big reason Los Angeles won the pennant in 2017.
Starting pitcher: Jose Rijo
Cincinnati swept the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series, mostly because of the ace’s dominance of the Reds’ rotation.
Starting pitcher: Rick Wise
One of the most dominant pitchers of the late ’60s and early’ 70s, Wise was also a prolific hitter.
Relief pitcher: Gary Bell
While he’s a reliable reliever for a variety of teams, it was his tenure with the Seattle short-lived pilots that led Bell to be immortalized in Jim Bouton’s book, Ball Four.
Closest: Jose Mesa
The unorthodox reliever was one of the main reasons the Cleveland Indians captured two pennants in the ’90s.
Seeker: Tony Pena
One of the best defensive catchers of his generation, Pena has spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
First base: Norm Cash
The slugger helped the Detroit Tigers claim the pennant in 1968, providing much of the offense that contributed to Denny McClain’s 31 wins.
Second base: Dave Cash
Not only was he a skilled outfielder in both Montreal and Philadelphia, but he served as a powerful base point guard at the top of the batting order.
Shortstop: Joey Cora
Cora and her brother Alex have formed a literal fraternity of great intermediate players.
Third base: Jake Lamb
Playing him opposite All Star Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the best tandems of cornering players in the game today.
Left field: Jose Cruz
His smooth swing and clutch strikes were key elements that turned the Houston Astros into contenders in the late ’70s and early’ 80s.
Center field: Alex Rios
He burst onto the scene with several great seasons in Toronto, where he displayed an odd combination of speed, power and arm.
Right Field: Matt Kemp
Barely missing an MVP for Ryan Braun, Kemp this winter was traded to the Dodgers.
Designated Hitter: Adam Lind
Providing consistent power down the left side, Lind was a key addition who helped the Washington Nationals get away with the National League East last season.