It was in 1899 that the evils of "syndicate ownership" reared up and afflicted baseball by a widespread transfer of players to franchises in richer markets. All of Cleveland's best players, particularly Cy Young, Jesse Burkett and Bobby Wallace, went to St. Louis. The Spiders fell from a solid fifth place, with an 81-68 record, to a remarkable record for futility at 20-134. It got so bad in Cleveland the fans stopped coming out to the park, and the team spent the last month of the season on the road. In essence, the fortunes of the formerly moribund St. Louis franchise were exchanged with those of the previously healthy Cleveland team.
Brooklyn had picked up its own collection of players, adding Joe Kelley and Willie Keeler along with manager Ned Hanlon from Baltimore, and Bill Dahlen from Chicago, and won the pennant. Those transfers are less sinister, but still unusual for the 19th century. Trades, as we know them today, were almost unheard of at the time. Boston and Philadelphia trailed close behind, and Baltimore, St. Louis and Cincinnati ran well.
Ed Delahanty took the batting title at .410, and also led in slugging, OPS, hits, total bases, doubles, and RBI. Jesse Burkett hit .396 and John McGraw .391. Willie Keeler and McGraw shared the lead in runs at 140. Delahanty had 238 hits, Burkett 221, and Jimmy Williams 220. Delahanty had 55 doubles, Honus Wagner 45. Williams had 27 triples, Buck Freeman 25. Freeman led with 25 home runs and Bobby Wallace was second with 12. Delahanty had 137 RBI followed by Freeman with 122, Williams with 116, and Wagner with 114. Jimmy Sheckard was tops in stolen bases with 73.
Jay Hughes and Joe McGinnity each won 28 games, Vic Willis won 27, Cy Young 26, Jesse Tannehill 24. Willis posted a 2.50 ERA, Young 2.58, Noodles Hahn and Joe McGinnity 2.68. Hahn led in strikeouts with 145 Cy Seymour 142.
1899 Win Shares, players; Ed Delahanty (Philadelphia) 41, John McGraw (Baltimore) 34, Chick Stahl (Boston) and Jimmy Williams (Pittsburgh) 32, Joe Kelley (Brooklyn) Roy Thomas (Philadelphia) and Jesse Burkett (St. Louis) 30 each, Willie Keeler (Brooklyn) 29, Tom Daly (Brooklyn) 28, Honus Wagner (Louisville) 26.
Pitchers; Vic Willis (Boston) 39, Joe McGinnity (Baltimore) and Cy Young (St. Louis) 35, Jay Hughes (Brooklyn) 33, Frank Kitson (Baltimore) and Kid Nichols (Boston) 31, Noodles Hahn (Cincinnati) and Jack Powell (St. Louis) 29, Brickyard Kennedy (Brooklyn) 28, Sam Leever and Jesse Tannehill (Pittsburgh) 27.
WARP3 scores, position players: McGraw 10.0, Delahanty 8.1, Williams 7.6, Stahl 7.5, Wagner 7.1, Thomas 6.9, Ed McFarland (Philadelphia) 6.5, Keeler and Bill Dahlen (Brooklyn) 6.1, Jimmy Collins (Boston) 6.0, Burkett 5.9, Kelley, Daly, and Nap Lajoie (Philadelphia) 5.8, Elmer Flick (Philadelphia) and Bobby Wallace (St. Louis) 5.7, George Davis (New York) 5.6.
WARP3 scores, pitchers: Young 9.0, Willis 7.4, McGinnity and Hughes 7.2, Tannehill 7.1, Leever and Cy Seymour (New York) 7.0, Kitson 6.5, Clark Griffith (Chicago) 6.4, Hahn 6.2, Deacon Phillippe (Louisville) 5.6, Powell 5.2.
WAR leaders, pitchers: Willis 8.9, McGinnity 7.4, Hahn 7.2, Young 7.1, Kitson and Tannehill 6.8, Hughes and Nichols 6.6. Position players, McGraw 9.4, Delahanty 8.4, Williams 7.6, Burkett 6.5, Wagner 6.4, Stahl 6.2, Tenney 6.1.
Top player: Delahanty was outstanding again, and the best hitter in the league, leading in batting, slugging, OPS, hits, total bases, doubles, and RBI. McGraw had a great year, but it's hard to overcome that kind of performance. McGraw would be second in his last 100-game year, with Jimmy Williams 3rd, Chick Stahl 4th and Jesse Burkett 5th.
Top pitcher: Vic Willis, 3rd in wins and 1st in ERA. No clear front-runner here. Cy Young would be #2. I'd put Iron Man #3. Hughes 4th in his career year and Noodles 5th.
Top rookie to Jimmy Williams, the Pirates sensational new third baseman. Williams had a good career, but not up to this first year's promise. Runner-up was McGinnity, and Sam Crawford also broke in this year. Roy Thomas, Sam Leever, and Noodles Hahn were notable in the best season for rookies in many years.
Best manager to Ned Hanlon, who went to Brooklyn after seven years in Baltimore, and led the Superbas to their first pennant since 1890. And he did it with Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, and a bunch of has-beens, never-weres, and guys playing over their heads.