Monday, September 11, 2006

Throw me the Idol

MVP talk is swirling at this point. David Ortiz had a mini-explosion yesterday complaining that the writers are going to screw him out of the MVP again. I've already written a post about why David Ortiz isn't the MVP, so I won't go over that ground again. The remaining candidates at this point are Morneau, Mauer, Santana, Dye, Thome and Jeter. One of those guys is going to win the award. If Ortiz can somehow lead the Red Sox back into the race for either the division or the wild card, then he will reappear on the list.

The Minnesota crew is at a distinct disadvantage because there are three viable candidates on the same team. This will invariably lead to split votes among the writers. Unless a clear cut candidate establishes himself in the next week or so, they are all going to be out of luck. Thome and Dye also play on the same team, but Dye is clearly the one that people have anointed as the clear MVP candidate. Both Minnesota and Chicago are in races for the division/wild card and that can only help a candidate if they perform some late game heroics. As silly as it may seem, highlights on SportsCenter are one of the best ways to get your candidacy across to the voters.

Derek Jeter is probably the front runner right now. In order to win the award, he almost has to win the batting title. He is currenty 5 points behind Mauer for the major league lead. If he wins the batting title, he probably wins the award. If he goes into a slump over the remainder of the season and doesn't win the batting title, then the award will be back in play. He will obviously still get some votes, but he may get more third place votes than first.

Frank Thomas has put himself in the running with a spectacular start to September. He has hit home runs in five straight games and is on track for a 40 home run/120 RBI season. Those are great numbers from someone who has spent the majority of the last two seasons on the DL. Thomas almost certainly assured his Hall of Fame status with his performance this year. While he has put himself into the discussion for the award, his numbers not going to measure up to Morneau, Dye or Ortiz. Because he is a DH, his offensive numbers would have to dwarf what the other players had done, and they simply don't. It has been a great season for Thomas and he has practically carried the Oakland offense at times, but he will not be adding a third award to his mantelpiece this season.

The most interesting candidate is Santana. He's the only pitcher in the debate and his second half numbers are outstanding. As he has done in the second half for the last two years, he is putting up Cy Young worthy numbers. He leads the American League in wins, strikeouts and ERA. The pitchers triple crown has lead to the MVP for pitchers in the past and given his importance to the Twins efforts, he will be given serious consideration this time. The problem with his candidacy is that pitchers seldom win the award unless there are no worthy hitters to contest it. Roger Clemens won the award in '86, beating out Don Mattingly. Clemens led the Red Sox to the World Series, while Mattingly's Yankees finished in second place. That obviously played a part in the mind's of the voters. Santana could lead the Twins to the playoffs, but he not only has to compete against the other outstanding hitters in the league, but also against two outstanding hitters on his own team. He is, in all likelyhood going to win the triple crown this year, but I don't think that it will be enough to put him over the top in the minds of the voters.

So who wins the award? It's hard to predict a winner with three weeks and a couple of playoff positions to be decided. It's probably Jeter's to lose at this point, but the Yankees are well ahead in the standings and he will not be involved in many important games for the remainder of the regular season. If one the Twins or one of the White Sox players can go on a tear for the last couple of weeks, he may very well walk away with the award. Of course the MVP doesn't necessarily go to the best player in each league. This year, Derek Jeter has probably been the best player in the American League. Either he or Travis Hafner. Hafner is out for the rest of the season, however and the Indians never contended, so he did not stand a chance of winning the MVP in such a crowded field. Jeter is currently tied with Manny Ramirez for the win shares lead in the AL, with Mauer, Ortiz, Morneau, Thome and Dye close behind. It's going to be a close race down the stretch, but if I was a betting man (and I've already said many times that I'm not), I would put my money on the captain of the NY Yankees.



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