Paul Konerko vs. Josh Hamilton: Two AL MVP Candidates Chasing Immortality
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Paul Konerko has been Ted Williams-like.
Konerko, in my opinion, has had the best career past the age of 34 in the last 25 years. After reaching 34, players have a tendency to decline. The players who saw a spike in their production after reaching that age are all linked to the infamous steroid era in Major League Baseball.
Konerko's batting eye has hit its peak, and he is flirting with a .400 batting average. He has firmly placed himself in the hunt for the American League batting title—not to mention MVP. Konerko, in some respects, is having a better season than the Rangers' Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton is the league leader in home runs and runs batted in, but Konerko is in the top 10 in every offensive statistic that matters, with the exception of stolen bases and triples. His defense at first base has been stellar as well.
While his teammates have struggled at times, Konerko has yet to go on an extended slump. He has transformed himself from a home run/double hitter to a double/home run hitter. It may sound the same, but there is a difference between the two.
Players who are home run/double hitters (i.e. Adam Dunn, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Thome) think "hit the home run first." Their strikeout numbers are high, and their batting average dips to around the .240-.255 range.
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A double/home run hitter (i.e. Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp and Konerko) thinks "doubles first." This dynamic requires contact, and the results vary depending the player. Those with some power hit 30-40 home runs per season with a batting average in the .285-.315 range. Those with just enough power average 20-30 home runs with a batting average between .300-.330. The strikeouts are low, and the on-base percentage is usually high.
Konerko, at 36 years old, seems yet to have lost his bat speed or hitting power because of this dynamic. Josh Hamilton fits somewhere in the middle.
The MVP conversation has been centered on Josh Hamilton because everybody loves a comeback story. We all know how talented Hamilton is, and we all know about his demons (alcohol and substance abuse)—adding to that is the fan that died after falling over the railing in an attempt to catch a ball tossed by Hamilton.
Trials, tribulations and triumphs have defined Hamilton’s career. They are also what drives him. To do what he has done is his career has been amazing, and that story is highly relatable to the fans and media alike.
While Konerko has been Ted Williams-like, Josh Hamilton has been Babe Ruth-like.
Both players mean so much to their team’s success.
Hamilton has helped the Rangers build an AL West Division lead, and Konerko has the White Sox on the cusp of taking the AL Central lead.
They are two different players who are not only helping their teams but breaking down barriers. Konerko is shattering the myths about age, while Hamilton is living proof that you can rise above tragedy.
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