In the coming week, the Baseball Writers Association of America will vote for both its American and National League Most Valuable Players.
While the American League race is truly anyone's guess, the National League's race is shrouded in questions, too.
Will the voters show the gumption to vote for someone who played only half a season in the N.L.? Will they vote for a guy who struck out 200 times and batted .250? Or will they take a chance on a dark horse candidate?
My guesses are as follows.
Most Valuable Player
Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers – Manny Ramirez is going to win the National League Most Valuable Player award while playing only half his games in Dodgers’ blue.
There, I said it. Shoot me.
At this point in time, everyone knows (read: has heard the legend of) what happened after Manny’s trade from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Long story short: a Bunyan-esque figure swooped down from the heavens and arrived in L.A. just in time to take a struggling .500 team all the way to the playoffs while batting a valiant .396 with 53 RBI in 53 games.
Ramirez will win the award for two reasons: his team made the playoffs on the strength of his resume and he batted .396 for the Dodgers and .332 for entirety of the 2008 season. These are two things his main competitors can not claim...
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – It would be a true shame, and an embarrassment for the Baseball Writers Association of America, if Howard wins the 2008 National League MVP award while batting a paltry .250.
The only reason I haven’t ranked Howard No. 3 is because the past is on his side. In 1944, Marty Marion won the N.L. MVP award while batting .267 (the lowest average for a MVP recipient) for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
However, Marion was a superior glove and was nicknamed “the Octopus” for his fielding, a luxury Howard doesn’t have.
I do not see the BBWAA rewarding Howard for his one-dimensional slugging accomplishments while there are much more rounded, albeit not World Champions, in the field of contenders.
To me, rewarding Howard’s 2008 performance would be like giving Jack Cust an MVP if the Holliday-bolstered Athletics make the playoffs next year. We are no longer in the juiced-up Bonds era and a more complete player deserves the award (see: Ryan Howard circa 2006). Hopefully the BBWAA's obsession with RBI is over...
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals - Pujols deserves to place second, or even first, but won’t because his team didn’t make the playoffs. It’s a shame because Pujols didn’t have much to work with from the start.
Unlike Howard, who has Jimmy Rollins and the incredible Chase Utley, Pujols was protected by then no-name Ryan Ludwick and an aging Troy Glaus. In a way, this makes Pujols’ season even more incredible.
Any other year, a .357 average, 37 homers, 116 RBI, and excellent glove work would be an almost-lock for MVP. However, Pujols placing any higher than third is unlikely given that the last player to win an MVP award on a team that finished worst than third was Andre Dawson in 1987.
The Others (in order):
4) Carlos Delgado, New York Mets - .271/38 HR/115 RBI—Delgado played clutch second half baseball and propelled his team into the playoff race in one of the best comebacks of 2008.
5) Lance Berkman, Houston Astros - .312/29 HR/106 RBI—After the Big Puma's ridiculous May and June, his star (and MVP) chances faded. Towards the end of the year he slowed but the 'Stros would have been lost without him.
6) Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers - .285/37 HR/106 RBI—Braun is not a fluke, but his September and October performance left a little something to be desired. He played surprisingly good defense, too. He and Berkman are interchangeable.
7) David Wright, New York Mets - .302/33 HR/124 RBI—Wright did what Delgado did except from a more formidable spot in the lineup.
8) Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals - .299/37 HR/113 RBI—It would be hard to not give Ludwick some nods for his extremely surprising 2008 campaign. We'll see if he can do it next year. I considered Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto around here, too.
9) Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves - .364/22 HR/75 RBI—My god! Jones was outstanding once again but there's no way he places higher than nine/ten with the amount of games he played.
10) Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants - 18-5, 227 IP, 265 K's—Two words: The Franchise.