Shortstop. Arky Vaughan may be the least-known great player in baseball history. A shortstop mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates across 14 seasons in the 1930s and 1940s, Vaughan’s fame was damaged by the fact that he never played a postseason game.
Vaughan had some spectacular seasons, including a league-leading .385 average in 1935, a career .318 average, and a career .889 OPS. He piled up a 77.9 WAR and gained enshrinement in 1985.
Yet only twice did Vaughan even get serious MVP consideration. He was third (behind Gabby Hartnett and Dizzy Dean) in that fabulous 1935 season and third again in 1938, this time trailing Ernie Lombardi and Bill Lee.
Third base. MVP voters seem to find it extraordinarily easy to look past great third basemen. Among present or future Hall of Famers at that position who never won an MVP award, Adrian Beltre, Wade Boggs and Ron Santo stand out.
Yet none of those three had the career enjoyed by Eddie Mathews, third baseman of the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s and 1960s. Mathews won home run titles in 1953 and again in 1959, five times drove in more than 100 runs, and retired with 512 home runs and an .885 OPS.
Mathews twice came frustratingly close to carrying home the MVP. As a second-year player in1953, he got three of the 24 first-place votes and finished second overall behind Roy Campanella. Six years later in 1959, Campanella finished runner-up again, this time to Ernie Banks, receiving five of the 21 first-place votes.
Mathews retired with a total of 96.0 WAR, the most for any position player who never won an MVP award.