The 2008 MLB season is drawing to a close, yet is somehow just beginning.
Every team has that one player that makes all the difference for them. Whether a team is good or not, there is usually one player who stands out. I decided to break down the MVP for each individual A.L. team. So here we go, let's start with the best division in baseball:
American League East:
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
I know he missed a total of about two months this season, but he was a beast in the Rays lineup. It took the Rays until May to call up the rookie sensation, but when they did, he produced.
Longoria was second on the team in home runs with 27, second in RBI with 85, fifth in runs scored, and fifth in hits. He played stellar defense while drawing comparisons to Brooks Robinson. I think that may be a little bit of a stretch, but without this kid the Rays do not win the division.
Kevin Youkilis, Boston
I know many of you are going to say Dustin Pedroia and that would be perfectly fine. I am going with Youk because of his versatility. He plays gold glove defense at first, above average defense at third, and can hit anywhere in the lineup.
When the Sox traded Manny, Youk moved to the clean-up spot in the lineup and was on fire from Day One. After the Manny trade, Youkilis hit .313, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 25 R, 17 2B, and his OBP was .414. Manny who?
Mike Mussina, New York
At 40 years young, Mike Mussina finally got 20 victories in a season. He was the most consistent Yankees starter and actually got better late in the season. Before the All-Star Break, Moose had an ERA of 3.61, which is respectable. However, in the second half of the season his ERA was 3.10. Mussina walked the fewest batters of his career minus his rookie year when he only pitched in 12 games. He hinted at retiring following his 20th victory against the Red Sox and if he does retire, what a way to go out.
Roy Halladay, Toronto
Halladay recorded 20 wins for the second time in his career. Teamed up with A.J. Burnett, Toronto made up possibly the best 1-2 punch in baseball this season. They won 38 games combined and accounted for 467 innings of baseball.
Halladay will get some Cy Young votes, but unfortunately will not win it. He was able to stay healthy for the entire season and it showed as he had a miniscule ERA of 2.78. He also set a new career-high in strikeouts with 206. There is no doubt this guy is a stud on a team with plenty of potential.
Aubrey Huff, Baltimore
Well, well, we have reached the cellar-dwellers of the A.L. East. The O's do not have many bright spots. However, Aubrey Huff stood out as he had possibly the best season of his career. He hit .304 which is second on the team, led the team with 32 HR, 108 RBI, 48 2B, and scored 96 runs.
The O's have a few good hitters at the top of their lineup, but once you get past their cleanup hitter, yikes! Huff was a huge part of the Devil Rays for many years and I'm sure he wishes he was still in Tampa.
American League West:
Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles
K-Rod had a magical regular season for a closer. He set the all-time single season saves record with 62, surpassing Bobby Thigpen's 57. L.A. was the league's only 100-game winner this season.
On paper, the Angels were possibly the best team in the league, but then the playoffs came and so did the Red Sox. As always, the Angels got manhandled by the Sox and K-Rod was no different. In Game 2 he let up a game-winning home run to J.D. Drew, a guy who had about six at-bats in a month and a half.
Until K-Rod can prove he is not a head-case and make it through the playoffs without imploding, he will not be the best closer in baseball. He is, however, the Angels MVP.
Josh Hamilton, Texas
Ok, so by now I am sure that everybody and their mother has heard Josh Hamilton's story. We get it, the guy did drugs, his life was messed up, now he is an MVP candidate. He led the team with 32 HR, 41 doubles, 102 runs scored, 190 hits, and he led the A.L. with 130 RBI.
There is no doubt that he had a great season, however, he fell off dramatically in the second-half. In the second-half he hit .296, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 13 2B, and his slugging fell to .498. The reason for this drop-off is the fact that he never played a full season of baseball, so I am sure the voters will take this into consideration when they hand in their ballots.
Brad Ziegler, Oakland
You know you have a bad team when your MVP was a middle-relief pitcher. Ziegler guaranteed himself the closer's job next year as he pitched in 47 games and had an ERA of 1.06. When Huston Street got hurt, Ziegler was moved to the closer role and responded by converting 11-of-13 save opportunities and posting a 3-0 record.
The A's will most likely try to trade Street in the offseason and lay down the red-carpet for Ziegler to walk down as "The Next Big Thing" in Oakland. Ziegler does need to cut down on his walks as he walked 22 in 59 2/3 innings.
What a disappointment the Mariners were this season. Many expected them to be World Series contenders this year. The only bright spot for the Mariners was Ichiro, as usual. He hit .310, 6 HR, 42 RBI, stole 43 bases, and collected 213 hits. For the eighth time in eight seasons Ichiro surpassed 200 hits.
There is no doubt that he is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he is wasting away in Seattle. The Mariners need to make a decision to either ride out these bad times or do a complete overhaul. If Ichiro was to go to a contender, you would be talking about him breaking his own hits record.
American League Central:
Carlos Quentin, Chicago
Quentin was a huge surprise for the White Sox this season. He hit .288, 36 HR, 100 RBI, and was second in the A.L. in Slugging Percentage (.571). Quentin would have a legitimate shot at the A.L. MVP had he not missed all of September with a wrist injury.
The White Sox had a potent lineup with Quentin, Konerko, Thome, Dye, Griffey, and Ramirez and there would not have even been a one-game playoff if Quentin was healthy. On the bright-side, the White Sox will have a great slugger for years to come.
Justin Morneau, Minnesota
Morneau is most likely going to win the A.L. MVP award this year. Of all the candidates, he was the most consistent of the group. He hit .300, 23 HR, 129 RBI, and 47 2B. He did this all while playing gold glove-caliber defense at first. If Morneau does end up winning the award it will be his second MVP and it will be the second time that it is going to be a close finish for the award.
Along with Joe Mauer, Morneau was able to lead the Twins to within one game of the playoffs. This is impressive considering they traded Johan Santana before the season started.
Cliff Lee, Cleveland
Cliff Lee won A.L. Comeback Player of the Year for 2008. He is also going to win the A.L. Cy Young Award. Lee had a great season, going 22-3 with an ERA of 2.54 and 170 Strikeouts. He also pitched 223 innings, which is a new career high.
The thing that makes his season that much more spectacular is how bad the Indians really were. The Indians won 81 games this season, and Lee won 22 of them. It is a shame that the Indians wasted his great season but they were struck by the injury-bug all season. Don't forget, Lee was demoted to AA last season when he was pitching God-awful.
Joakim Soria, Kansas City
Tough decision. Soria has become possibly the most underrated closer in baseball. He saved 42 games in 45 chances and had an ERA of 1.60. He struck out 75 batters while walking 19. Soria is going to be one of the best closers in baseball for years to come. If the Royals can build around him and get him some help out of the bullpen then he is going to be even better. Royals fans, if there are any, here is your savior!
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Cabrera was very productive in his first season in the American League. He finished the year by hitting .292, 37 HR, 127 RBI, 36 2B, and scoring 85 runs. As a team, the Tigers were a huge disappointment as many people expected them to represent the A.L. in the World Series.
Cabrera's transition as a third basemen did not go as planned as he was forced to move to first base after only 14 games. Cabrera is most likely going to see a majority of his time as the DH next season as the Tigers are probably going to try and rid themselves of Gary Sheffield's contract. Remember folks, Cabrera is still only 25 years old.
Well there you have it, my A.L. team MVP's. Feel free to leave comments and leave your selections, I just ask you back-up your argument. Stay tuned as I am going to do the N.L. in the coming days.