Red Sox Nation stays up late tonight to focus its collective attention on Orange County for the start of the American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
They'll take the field at Angel Stadium behind 2008 American League MVP 2B Dustin Pedroia, but the road to the 2009 postseason sees fans also giving credit to many of his teammates.
This year's version of the Red Sox proved to be versatile and well-rounded, but someone had to step up and be considered the team's Most Valuable Player, right?
Jason Bay started off the 2009 season on an absolute tear, leaving Red Sox Nation to proclaim "Manny who?" while generating early league-MVP buzz.
Batting .290 with 15 home runs, Bay led Boston to a double-digit lead in the AL East at the end of May. When the fall came, it came hard, with Bay hitting .230 in June with four home runs, and a dismal .192 in July with a lone homer.
He regained momentum in September hitting .327 and finished strong, leading the club with 36 homers and 116 RBIs. He's second to Kevin Youkilis in slugging (.538), and he has the highest OPS among all qualifying American League outfielders this season.
Coming to the Red Sox in a midseason trade from Cleveland, Victor Martinez provided a much-needed spark to the middle of a lineup which was going stagnant in July.
Martinez raised his game along with his production, improving his batting average from .284 with Cleveland to .336 as a Red Sox as his on-base percentage went from .368 to .405. His ability to hit to contact set the table for Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay to produce the RBIs needed to win games in the AL East Pennant chase.
Sure, it's tough to call Martinez an MVP with only half a season in a Red Sox jersey, but it's safe his contributions were vital to snapping up the AL Wild Card.
In his second full season, Jacoby Ellsbury improved upon his first impressive season. A new team record and league-leading 70 stolen bases, a .301 batting average, and .353 on-base percentage distracted pitchers as Ellsbury wreaked havoc on the basepaths.
Ellsbury played the role of lead-off hitter well and led the Red Sox with 188 hits. Not as widely discussed was his Gold-Glove caliber defense in center field, made tricky at times with the quirky "triangle" of Fenway Park. Ellsbury's speed helped to track down what used to be easy singles and doubles to the deepest part of the park.
Game One Starter Jon Lester had two fewer wins than rotation-mate Josh Beckett, but there's no question Lester has "Ace of the staff" stuff. He finished the year 15-8 with a 3.41 ERA overall and led all left-handers in the league with 225 strikeouts, good for third-best in the AL.
Lester really raised his game in the second half, posting a 7-2 record, 2.82 ERA, and hurling 94 strikeouts in 89 innings to make a name for himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game .
Coming off a year where he finished third in the 2008 AL MVP balloting, 1B Kevin Youkilis again put together a productive year, batting .305 with a .408 on-base percentage, 27 homers and 92 runs batted in.
Youkilis' value is magnified by his defensive flexibility, moving between both first base and third base. He brought consistent Gold-Glove caliber defense no matter where he played, leading all Sox infielders with a .998 fielding percentage and committing one solitary error all year.
Though it seemed to be a year where P Josh Beckett didn't seem as dominant, he still finished the year 17-8 with a 3.86 ERA, throwing 199 strikeouts in a career-high 207 innings.
The innings might have fatigued the right-hander down the stretch as he had a penchant to give up the long ball. Yet no pitcher was hotter during the summer months, where Beckett went 10-2 during June, July, and August, posting a 2.41 ERA in that three-month span.
His dazzling starts during the summer months came at a time when the Red Sox offense faltered, making his pitching efforts even more necessary.
He's intense and a clubhouse leader. He's versatile and played two of the most important and difficult defensive positions at a award-winning level. His offensive numbers at the cleanup spot led to productive seasons for the rest of his lineup.
His production was consistent from April to September and he did it both on the road and back at Fenway.
Plus, you've got to love a man who promotes a wine called SauvignYooouuuk Blanc.
Red Sox Nation, your 2009 Red Sox MVP is Kevin Edmund Youkilis.