The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim suffer from a rare curse. They are just too good.
And, odd as it sounds, the primary symptom of this disease of domination is an unjust lack of recognition.
Top to bottom, this lineup is truly unbelievable.
On Tuesday night, all nine Angels starters finished the game with a batting average of .300 or better—something that hasn't been done in 75 years.
These guys are doing it with singles up the middle, doubles off the wall, and home runs deep into the bleachers. And herein lies the problem.
With so many guys producing so well, no one player on the Angels can possibly get the recognition he deserves.
This year, there are no obvious choices for MVP in the American League.
Over in the NL, the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols seems to have it all but locked up. The guy could break his leg tomorrow and he'd still win in a landslide.
In the more dominant AL, however, the wealth is fairly evenly distributed.
Several guys are having very productive seasons, but there is no standout performer just yet. The home run leaders are bunched together, as are the chart-toppers in run production.
In times like these, then, the decision has to be made on different criteria. MVP voters start to look at the best teams and search for the best player in the lineup.
Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees may be the frontrunner for AL MVP honors at the moment. He is tied for the league lead in homers, is near the top in RBI, and is a stellar defender at first base.
But what about the Angels?
We are only the second best team in all of baseball, leading the league in batting average and average with runners in scoring position, and are among the league leaders in runs scored and stolen bases.
It would seem academic that L.A. of A. must have someone who deserves to be the AL MVP.
In fact, the Angels have three candidates, all uniquely qualified.
The problem is that, while their production may earn them a few votes, none are necessarily better than the others, and so they will ultimately cancel each other out.
Like Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds of the 2004 Cardinals, voters will have a tough time choosing between the likes of Torii Hunter, Kendry Morales, and Bobby Abreu.
Unfortunately, based on the precedent set in '04, the voters will likely give a little love to the trio, but will ultimately reward a guy like Tex or even Joe Mauer, someone who is clearly the best on his respective squad.
Take a look at each of the Angels' would-be candidates:
Torii Hunter, center fielder
Hunter was far and away the MVP for the Angels in the first half of the season, and was certainly in contention for the league MVP as well.
He was hitting well over .300, and lead the team with 17 home runs and 65 RBI heading into the All-Star break. His defense has also been nothing short of spectacular.
Well on his way to a ninth consecutive Gold Glove Award, Hunter has yet to commit an error as an Angel, and continues to rob home runs, base hits, and RBI from his undoubtedly frustrated opponents.
However, a debilitating muscle strain prevented Hunter from appearing in his second career All-Star Game and kept him out of the Angels' lineup for over a month.
Had he not suffered the injury, which he sustained after slamming into a wall in Dodger Stadium chasing a fly ball, Hunter would have set career highs in home runs and RBI.
That, combined with his outstanding play at a key position on the field, would have made him a serious candidate for AL MVP honors.
As it stands, however, Hunter's league MVP hopes are likely over, despite his significant offensive and defensive contributions to one of the best teams in baseball.
Kendry Morales, first baseman
After the Angels failed to re-sign Teixeira in the offseason, first base became a bit of a question mark.
The job automatically fell to Morales, a switch-hitting slugger—much like Tex—who had paid his dues in the Minors and was ready for a shot on the big stage.
But no one could have predicted how ready he was.
In his first full season in the Major Leagues, Morales is absolutely raking.
He currently leads the team with 26 home runs and is second in RBI with 79—one behind team-leader Abreu.
He is also batting a cool .303 on the year.
Tex, in comparison, is hitting just .286, while former Angel first baseman Casey Kotchman has struggled to find his comfort zone, batting. 282 with Atlanta in the first half and .206 in 10 games with the Red Sox.
Morales has also been a revelation with the glove.
He has only erred six times this season, and not a game goes by that he doesn't dig out some low throw from a fellow infielder to secure an out at first.
His performance for the Angels this season has exceeded all expectations, and has made everyone forget about losing Teixeira to the evil empire.
That alone should make Morales a legitimate MVP candidate.
Bobby Abreu, right fielder
Abreu may not be swinging with the same power he once had, but his presence on this Angels squad goes far beyond the home runs he hasn't hit.
The patient lefty hit .357 through the first month of the season, and is still batting at a .310 clip. His 11 home runs may not be of typical MVP quality, but his 80 RBI with such limited power certainly is.
Between June and July, Abreu drove in 51 runs, but hit just seven big flies.
Of course, RBI come easy when you're batting well over .400 with runners in scoring position—he's the current league-leader in that category by a wide margin.
Abreu is deadly with men on base, but he is just as dangerous when he strolls the paths. He has 26 stolen bases this season, good for fifth in the AL.
And still, his greatest asset has nothing to do with on-field production. It is the influence he has had on his teammates.
Youngsters like Morales, Erick Aybar, and Howie Kendrick are all learning from Abreu's example of strict strike zone discipline and patience at the plate.
Abreu carefully looks over every pitch he sees, often working better hitter's counts for himself and drawing walks like this team has never seen.
With his influence, it is little wonder the Angels have reached such great offensive heights.
Abreu is arguably the most deserving of any AL MVP candidate.
Stars like Teixeira, Mauer, and even Justin Morneau are all worthy candidates to be sure. They drive in the runs, and are Gold Glove-caliber fielders at their respective positions.
But at a season-high 27 games over .500, the Angels' prosperity can be almost entirely attributed to Abreu.
Not only has he done it with the bat and the glove, but with his influence and teachings as well.
Those other guys are offensive monsters, and as such, they should all be considered for the Hank Aaron Award, given to the top offensive player in each league.
But no other player in the AL so perfectly fits the definition of “Most Valuable Player” than Abreu, and in a perfect world, the voters—i.e. the baseball writers of America—would recognize his contributions to the Angels.
However, this world is far from perfect. It is a flawed place that exists in a Yankees/Red Sox-centered universe. Just look at last year's AL MVP.
Dustin Pedroia? Really? He wasn't even the best player on his own team.
Kevin Youkilis, who had to settle for the Hank Aaron Award, topped Pedroia in home runs and RBI, barely trailed his Boston teammate in batting average, and is every bit the fielder as the reigning MVP.
But Pedroia is a scrappy player who overachieves for a guy his size, and doggone it, writers love that!
So don't expect Abreu or any other Angel to rank too high in the voting this season; picking a player in the AL East is just easier.
Besides which, there are simply too many worthy candidates on the Angels to sift through, despite their spectacular and unique contributions to one of the best teams in baseball.