With MLB's regular season nearing its end, it's time for pundits across the country with wi-fi access to offer their unsolicited input about baseball's end-of-the-year awards.
While he had a productive year, it's safe to say that Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia won't be repeating as American League MVP. His numbers are good, but the fact that the award will be going elsewhere is more a testimony of some great performances around the league.
Up Next...American League MVP
On top at the end:
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins C:
Mauer has long been knocked by those who follow Twins baseball for not having enough power.
He knocked their meatballs off the blue baggie in the Metrodome's right field, hitting 27 career home runs to this point...more than double his previous career high of 13. He passed his career high of 85 RBI from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Given his flirtation with .400 earlier in the year, he's ONLY batting .349 in September.
Big-game players step up when their team needs them, and that's in September. Additionally, the Twins lost 2007 MVP Justin Morneau to a back injury last week; Mauer responded and has hit .770 (10-13) since Morneau was shelved.
I hear the argument that MVPs need to come from teams that make the playoffs. The Twins are still deeply in contention and a big reason comes from Mauer putting the plucky small-market team on his shoulders.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees SS:
The Yankee Captain broke one of the all-time Yankee franchise records, and he will undoubtedly get votes for passing Lou Gehrig’s mark. Add to that Jeter having one of his best seasons yet statistically at age 35 and batting leadoff for a Yankee team that was an offensive powerhouse once Alex Rodriguez returned from injury.
That said...Rodriguez's return also sparked...
Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees 1B
The signing of Marky Baseball looked to be a bust after a painfully slow start when he was seen hovering around the Mendoza line.
A-Rod returned and Teixeira embarked on his trademark productive season, bolstered by teammates all around him who also knocked the ball out of the sandbox known as Yankee Stadium at a record pace. He continued to show Gold Glove quality defense at first.
However, the inclusion of Jeter on the MVP ballot leads to split votes...which serves to sink both men in pinstripes.
Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels 1B:
I can't remember a player on a top contender that has hit .307/30/98 with a .914 OPS and managed to fly completely under the radar like Morales has.
He deserves a lot more consideration than he's getting. The Angels have dealt with injuries to SP John Lackey, CF Torii Hunter, SP Ervin Santana, LF Vladimir Guerrero, a death of a pitcher, the ups and downs of guys like Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders in the rotation and through it all, he has remained the one constant.
Unfortunately, on a team where the entire lineup batted .300 or better at one point, singling out one player as Most Valuable is a difficult task.
Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox LF:
If the award was given out at the end of May, Bay runs away with it.
He had baseball crazy Boston saying "Manny who?" Batting .290 with 15 home runs, Bay led Boston to a double-digit lead in the AL East. When the fall came, it came hard, and Bay batted .230 in June with 4 home runs, and a dismal .192 in July with a lone home run.
While he has gained momentum in September hitting .327, those months in the dead of summer had Boston sports fans questioning his ability to fill the large shoes of past Red Sox clean-up hitters.
On Deck: National League MVP
St. Louis Cardinals' 1B Albert Pujols finished atop a tight field of contenders to win the 2008 National League MVP.
When Pujols announced in Spring Training 2008 that he had a shredded tendon, sportswriters and fans felt with certainty that it spelled the end to seven straight years with at least a .300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI.
Instead, Pujols put together another monster 2008, finishing the year with 37 home runs, 116 RBI, and batted .357 with a ridiculous .653 slugging percentage. Pujols again figures into the mix to repeat the award along with several other viable contenders.
My winner next...
King of the Mountain:
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals 1B
I wish I could be suspenseful, but when something is as cut and dried as the National League MVP race, there's no sense in dragging out the inevitable.
There were many occasions this year that opposing pitchers commiserated with Philadelphia Phillies' closer Brad Lidge (photo), turning around to see their fastball knocked out of the park courtesy of the Cards uber-talented franchise player.
King Albert should repeat and walk away with the hardware, posting his ninth straight season of 30+ HR's (currently flirting with 50), 100+ RBI (127) and batting .300+ (.327). As opposed to last year where's Pujols' Cards were left watching the playoffs from home, the 2009 Redbirds are in the driver's seat to win the NL Central.
If not getting his team to October baseball was the knock on him last season, that argument is gone this year.
The rest of the field:
Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins SS
Playing with the Marlins, Ramirez will never get a lot of notoriety. But this kid can hit. Ramirez is hitting .356 with 23 homers, 100 RBI and 25 stolen bases. A team that pundits like to write off, the Fish remain clinging to wild-card hopes, in large part to Ramirez's productive year.
Ramirez has already had some great seasons but this may be the best of the best. Sadly, in addition to playing in the baseball wasteland of Landshark Stadium, he also has a reputation of being a clubhouse problem, which doesn't endear him to voters.
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers 1B
Can the Home Run Derby champion add the MVP trophy to his mantle? He has a chance. The 25-year-old has turned into a great hitter—.298 batting average, 39 homers, and 126 RBI.
He and teammate Ryan Braun, who has equally impressive numbers, served to be the only bright spot on a Milwaukee team that started strong but has faded down the stretch.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants SP:
Pitchers usually don’t enter into MVP talk but Lincecum can’t be ignored. For most of the season, The Freak was almost single-handedly keeping the Giants in the playoff race.
Lincecum has a record of 14-5 to go along with a 2.30 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.04 and a Majors-leading 244 strikeouts. But the emergence of Matt Cain down the stretch has helped take some of the load off of Lincecum's shoulders, making the Giants pitching rotation a fearsome one for any playoff team lucky enough to face them in October.
TOMORROW: Cy Young awards