He didn't hit .396 down the stretch like Manny Ramirez. He didn't have the record-breaking September that Ryan Howard had. He wasn't perfect all season like "Lights Out" Lidge, and he didn't carry his team to the wild card like CC Sabathia.
He really didn't receive a lot of attention this season at all.
But Prince Albert quietly put together arguably the finest year of his soon-to-be Hall-of-Fame career, capturing the National League MVP award. With his sweet swing, gold glove, and patient batting eye, Pujols tore up the National League from Game One through Game 162.
The MVP award, Pujols' second in four years, was well-deserved for the man who has taken home a handful of awards already this offseason, including Sporting News' Player of the Year, Major League Player of the Year, Players' Choice Player of the Year, and the Fielding Bible Award at first base.
In one of the closest MVP races ever, Pujols received 18 of 32 first-place votes, barely beating out first basemen Ryan Howard. Many people were calling for Dodgers' left fielder Manny Ramirez to win the award, but with only 187 at-bats in the National League after a midseason trade from the Red Sox, Ramirez simply didn't play enough to get very many votes.
Same goes with lefty C.C. Sabathia, who went 11-2 with the Brewers, but like Manny, only played part of the season with the National League.
There have been few athletes as consistently excellent as Pujols, who batted .357 with 37 home runs and 116 RBI, his eighth straight season of at least .300-30-100. His 190 adjusted OPS was the highest of his career, and the best in the major leagues since Barry Bonds' 268 in 2004.
Pujols led the National League in numerous offensive categories, such as slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, adjusted OPS, runs created, intentional walks, times on base, offensive winning percentage, batting wins, and adjusted batting wins. On defense, Pujols set a new career-best in fewest errors (six) and fielding percentage (.996) at first base.
Pujols, arguably the most feared hitter in baseball, was the biggest weapon on a Cardinals' team that finished 10 games over .500, yet just fourth in the competitive N.L. Central.
While it is trendy to pick the Most Valuable Player from a playoff team, it's clear that the reason the Cards missed the playoffs had nothing to do with Pujols. Pujols batted over .300 every month of the season, including an impressive .366 in the second half of '08.
Prince Albert is the 25th player in major-league history to capture two MVP awards. At only 28 years old, Pujols is already making a case for himself as one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever to play the game. In the prime of his career, there is no reason why Pujols shouldn't be a prime MVP contender again next season.
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