The Yankees won the pennant for the first time in 12 years, their longest drought since the dynasty began in 1921. The free agent era dawned, after an arbitrator ruled in the offseason that clubs could renew contracts for one season only, not in perpetuity. This led the A's stars to play out their option years en masse, and set off the preseason trade of Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman to Baltimore for Don Baylor and Mike Torrez. The Yankees then picked Holtzman up at midseason in a huge 10-player trade.
New York won 97 and outdistanced Baltimore by 10.5 games in the East, with Boston 3rd, Cleveland 4th, then Detroit and Milwaukee. The Royals broke the A's stranglehold in the West by a 2.5 game margin. Minnesota was 3rd, California and Texas tied for 4th. Chicago lost 97 games and were sold to Bill Veeck, his last team ownership. Veeck still made for an interesting story, and zany promotions.
George Brett won the batting title in a tight three-way race with Hal McRae and Rod Carew that ended in some controversy tinged with charges or racism, that Caucasian Brett was favored over his teammate, African-American McRae. Brett batted .333, McRae .332, and Carew .331 is an insanely tight race. McRae led the league in on-base and OPS. Jackson led in slugging, with Graig Nettles leading in homers with 32, and Lee May in RBI with 109 just ahead of Thurman Munson at 105. Roy White scored 104 runs, Amos Otis had 40 doubles, and Brett 14 triples. Bill North led in steals with 75. Jackson edged McRae in OPS+.
Jim Palmer led in wins with 22, one more than Luis Tiant, as Wayne Garland also won 20 and a big free agent payday. Rookie Mark (The Bird) Fidrych led in ERA by 0.01 over Vida Blue, 2.33 to 2.34. Nolan Ryan led in strikeouts with 327 and Sparky Lyle in saves with 23 to Dave LaRoche's 21. Fidrych led with 24 complete games, Ryan with 7 shutouts.
Win Shares leaderboard:
Players; George Brett (Kansas City) 33, Bobby Grich (Baltimore) 31, Rod Carew (Minnesota) 30, Graig Nettles (New York) 28, Ron LeFlore and Rusty Staub (Detroit), Hal McRae (Kansas City) and Mickey Rivers and Roy White (New York) 26 each, Reggie Jackson (Baltimore) and Amos Otis (Kansas City) 25, Ken Singleton (Baltimore), Rico Carty (Cleveland), Thurman Munson (New York), Sal Bando (Oakland), Mike Hargrove and Toby Harrah (Texas) 24, Mark Belanger (Baltimore) 23, Fred Lynn (Boston) and Gene Tenace (Oakland) 22.
Pitchers; Jim Palmer (Baltimore), Frank Tanana (California) and Mark Fidrych (Detroit) 27 each, Vida Blue (Oakland) 25, Luis Tiant (Boston) 22, Wayne Garland (Baltimore), Bert Blyleven (Minnesota/Texas) and Mike Torrez (Oakland) 20, Nolan Ryan (California), John Hiller (Detroit), Bill Campbell (Minnesota), Rollie Fingers (Oakland) and Gaylord Perry (Texas) 17.
WARP3 leaders, players: Brett 10.8, Nettles 9.7, Grich 8.1, White 7.8, McRae 7.0, Carew and Jackson 6.8, Munson and Phil Garner (Oakland) 6.7, Rivers 6.6, Carlton Fisk (Boston) 6.4, LeFlore 6.0, Carty 5.7, Otis and Willie Randolph (New York) 5.4, Lynn 5.3, Bando and Harrah 5.2, Tenace, Freddie Patek (Kansas City) and Mark Belanger (Baltimore) 5.1.
WARP 3 leaders, pitchers: Tanana 9.7, Fidrych 9.0, Palmer 8.1, Blue 7.1, Bill Travers (Milwaukee) 5.4, Tiant 5.2, Torrez 5.1, Perry 5.0, Blyleven and Gary Ross (California) 4.8, Hiller 4.6, Ryan 4.5, Garland 4.2, Ken Brett (Chicago) 4.0, Fingers 3.9.
WAR leaders from Fangraphs: position players; Nettles 8.4, Brett 7.2, Carew 6.6, Grich 6.0, Belanger 5.9, Rivers 5.7, Bando and White 5.4, Jackson 5.1, Munson and Randolph 4.8, McRae 4.7, Fisk 4.4, Chambliss, LeFlore, and Harrah 4.3, Campaneris 4.2, Lynn and Tenace 4.1.
Pitchers: Blue 7.4, Blyleven 7.1, Tanana 6.1, Perry 5.5, Ryan 5.4, Fidrych 5.1, Slaton and Tiant 4.7, Leonard 4.5, Eckersley and Jenkins 4.4, Fitzmorris 4.3, Hunter 4.1, Wise 3.9, Brett, Goltz, Palmer, and Roberts 3.7.
MVP (top 20);
Place Name Team 1st Place Points
1 Thurman Munson NYY 18 304
2 George Brett KCR 2 217
3 Mickey Rivers NYY 1 179
4 Hal McRae KCR 0 99
5 Rod Carew MIN 1 71
5 Chris Chambliss NYY 0 71
7 Amos Otis KCR 1 58
8 Bill Campbell MIN 0 56
9 Lee May BAL 0 51
10 Jim Palmer BAL 0 47
11 Mark Fidrych DET 1 41
12 Joe Rudi OAK 0 35
13 Sal Bando OAK 0 31
14 Carl Yastrzemski BOS 0 26
15 Frank Tanana CAL 0 19
16 Reggie Jackson BAL 0 17
16 Graig Nettles NYY 0 17
18 Gene Tenace OAK 0 13
19 Rollie Fingers OAK 0 12
20 Vida Blue OAK 0 10
Cy Young (top 7);
Place Name Team 1st place Points
1 Jim Palmer BAL 19 108
2 Mark Fidrych DET 5 51
3 Frank Tanana CAL 0 18
4 Ed Figueroa NYY 0 12
5 Luis Tiant BOS 0 10
6 Vida Blue OAK 0 8
7 Bill Campbell MIN 0 7
Place Name Team Points
1 Mark Fidrych DET 22 22
2 Butch Wynegar MIN 2 2
Top player; George Brett, now the best player in the league. McRae was a better hitter, but Brett added good defense. Nettles, not Munson, was the top force on the Yankees.
#1 George Brett, #2 Graig Nettles, #3 Bobby Grich, #4 Rod Carew, #5 Hal McRae, #6 Thurman Munson.
Top pitcher; Mark Fidrych. A rookie for a bad team, The Bird was the biggest thing to hit baseball in years. Fans flocked to see the kooky kid, he was on TV all the time, and this before ESPN, and he was great! He may never have been destined for a Hall of Fame career, with a low strikeout rate, but he was amazing.
#1 Mark Fidrych, #2 Frank Tanana, #3 Jim Palmer, #4 Vida Blue, #5 Luis Tiant.
Top rookie: Mark Fidrych. He was not a good bet to last long with that K rate, but he was something to watch. And he was very good in 1976.
Top manager: Billy Martin got the Yankees their first win since 1964.