Why Joe Mauer Has To Be AL MVP

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIISeptember 17, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins hits his second home run of the game in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 24, 2009 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

There is no question that St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols will win the NL MVP award.

Pujols, who is looking for his third MVP award, is in position to win the NL Triple Crown. He is hitting .333 with 47 HR and 127 RBI, and would be the first NL Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick did it for the Cardinals in 1937.

The more heated debate, however, is the AL MVP race.

Ultimately, it will come down to Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and New York Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira.

A valid case can be made for either player.

Teixeira, an offseason acquisition for the Yankees, has hit .286 (32nd in the AL) with 35 HR (2nd in the AL) and 112 RBI (1st in AL). With the help of Tex, the Yankees are in position to claim the AL East title and return to the playoffs after their absence in 2008.

Mauer has had a career year in 2009. After missing the first month of the season with a bad back, Mauer has hit .374 (1st in ML), 27 HR (T-13 in AL...his previous career high was 13) and 87 RBI (T-13 in AL). Mauer also leads the AL in OBP (.441...Tex is 16th with .380) and SLG (.610...Tex is fourth with .533)

The one thing that will play a major factor in who will win the MVP is who makes the playoffs and who doesn't.

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The Yankees have a 6.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox, but the Twins are 4.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

While the Yankees will cruise into the postseason, the Twins will have a steeper climb to the postseason.

The Twins have lost 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau (.274, 30 HR, 100 RBI) and 3B Joe Crede (.225, 15 HR, 48 RBI) for the season.

With Morneau gone for the season, RF Michael Cuddyer (who came up with the Twins as an INF) will take over first base. This will force the Twins to play either Delmon Young (.262, 8 HR, 43 RBI) or DH Jason Kubel (.302, 23 HR, 87 RBI) in the outfield.

The Twins lineup is much weaker without a healthy Morneau. Morneau was hitting .100 (7-70) with 2 HR and 6 RBI in 20 games since August 15.

If the Twins make the playoffs without Morneau, it will all but secure Mauer's MVP title.

Only four players in the last 40 years have won both the AL MVP and the AL Batting Title. Ichiro (.350) did it in 2001, George Brett (.390) did it in 1980, Rod Carew (.388) did it in 1977, and Carl Yastrzemski (.328) did it in 1967.

The highest AL average in the past 10 years have been Nomar Garciaparra (.372 in 2000) and Ichiro (.372 in 2004). If Mauer can reach the 30 HR plateau, hit the 100 RBI mark, keep his average about .360, and help lead the Twins to the playoffs, it would be very difficult not to give him the nod over Tex for the AL MVP.