It's not often that a manager's endorsement of his player is very meaningful.
They all tend to express the same pleasantries when discussing their own, and sifting through the schlock to find the truth in their answers can sometimes be a difficult task.
However, when Mike Scioscia, manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, speaks his mind, it is rarely anything but the truth.
Scioscia is not the type to indulge in gratuitous extolment, even when it comes to his own players.
But when asked whether Kendry Morales deserves to be the AL MVP this season, one word came to his mind: “Absolutely.”
High praise from such a revered manager.
But as they say, in sports, news travels much quicker from East to West than it does the reverse.
All of the national attention is heaped on East Coast teams and players, in part, because games out West begin so late.
A 7 p.m. start time in California means the game doesn't get going until 10 p.m. in New York, and won't end until well past midnight.
It also doesn't hurt that ESPN's offices are located in Connecticut while MLB Network broadcasts its shows from New Jersey.
But hey, who's keeping track?
In any case, it takes a Herculean effort for players on the left coast to be noticed on a national scale.
It's guys like Barry Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero, athletic freaks of nature—or in Bonds's case, an artificial freak—who create the sort of media hoopla that tends to precede some sort of major award.
Morales is turning into a superstar for the Angels this season, but his style of play is far from the eye-popping antics of the above-mentioned MVP's. He simply steps to the plate and gets the job done.
This season, he's gotten it done in spades.
Through the first five months of the season, Morales is batting .314 and is among the league leaders in home runs (30), RBI (94), and extra-base hits (68).
He's also improved by leaps and bounds with the glove, making just six errors at first base this season while digging out countless throws in the dirt and even making a few diving plays.
On any other contender in the East, Morales's name might be synonymous with MVP.
In Anaheim, he's just another one of our “best kept secrets in baseball,” as Scioscia once described former Angel great Garret Anderson.
So what more does Morales need to do this season in order to be a serious contender for the Most Valuable Player Award?
Simple: keep doing what he's doing.
MVP voters often overlook the achievements of West Coast stars, but if Morales continues along the path he's on, it will be almost impossible to ignore him.
In the first place, his contributions to the Angels this season extend far beyond measurable statistics.
When Mark Teixeira took the money and ran to New York, the starting first baseman's job fell to a young Cuban who had shown plenty of potential in the Minors, but had little opportunity to shine in the big leagues.
Now, Halo fans struggle to remember when Tex wore red.
When Guerrero and Torii Hunter were lost for more than a month with injuries, the organization and fans alike searched in panicked frenzy for someone to step up in their absence.
But Morales, along with outfielder Bobby Abreu, carried the team through the rough summer months and into September with a four-and-a-half game lead in the AL West.
Morales has become the lynch pin to the Angels' offense. Big home runs, clutch base hits—This guy can do it all.
In true poetic fashion, his biggest competition in the MVP race is the man he replaced at first.
This year, Teixeira is batting .283 with 32 homers and 101 runs driven in. He is also playing Gold Glove-caliber defense for the Yankees.
Right now, Teixeira is popping around six home runs, driving in slightly more than 20 RBI, and smacking just about 28 hits in around 100 at-bats per month.
Morales is right on his heels in the home run department, and averages around 19 RBI and 29 hits in almost 92 at-bats per month.
If these numbers hold true, Tex's season would look like this: .280-.285 AVG, 38-39 HR, 121 RBI.
K-Mo, on the other hand, should earn these numbers by year's end: .315 AVG, 36-37 HR, 112-113 RBI.
True, Teixeira's power numbers will likely surpass Morales's, but not by much. A couple of home runs and fewer than 10 RBI will not an MVP determine. Especially if Morales is swinging more than 30 points better than his competition.
Teixeira has also had a fairly inconsistent season, his power numbers flopping up and down between the months.
And let us not forget, he was hitting below .200 before Alex Rodriguez returned from injury to offer a little protection in the lineup.
Morales has only watched his production go up month after month, and is coming off his best performance of the season, batting .385 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI in August alone.
What's more, he's done all of this while batting most of the season with guys like Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, and Howie Kendrick hitting behind him.
Capable hitters, sure. But even combined they couldn't generate the fear that A-Rod brings.
On top of all of this, we have to remember where Teixeira plays. Just like in real estate, home run-hitting comes down to three key elements: location, location, location.
There is no better location for a slugger on the left side of the plate than New Yankee Stadium.
Teixeira has belted 20 home runs in the Bronx, 17 of which have been to right and right-center field—lofted up into that ridiculous jet stream that turns pop flies into big flies.
Yes, Tex can hit them anywhere, but anyone can hit them in Yankee Stadium.
Meanwhile, Morales plays in a park that can only be described as pitcher friendly and has still plastered 17 balls out, half of which jumped the 18-foot wall in right.
Put Morales in New York and they'd run out of fireworks to shoot off.
Of course, if the Minnesota Twins make a strong run this month and end up wining the AL Central, this whole conversation may be moot as Joe Mauer will undoubtedly win the MVP.
Voters tend to gravitate toward the best players on the best teams.
As of right now, Teixeira and Morales are those players on those teams.
If each performs up to his average monthly production, the AL MVP race will come down to the wire.
But if Morales can keep his hot streak alive and ensure his power numbers continue to climb each month, he'll make it very hard for voters to ignore the best in the West any longer.