With About A Month Left In The Season, Who's Leading The Pack For AL MVP?
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees
Pros: After Teixeira signed his 8 year, $180M contract with the Yankees in the offseason, it became obvious that he was going to be a prominent figure in either the MVP conversation, or the "most overpaid" discussion. Fair or not, he was thrust into the spotlight the day he signed that deal. Fortunately for Teixeira, he has performed as well as the Yankees ever could have expected.
Teixeira leads the league in RBI's with 101 as the month of August comes to a close, and is second in the AL in HR with 32. He's also batting a very respectable .284, with an OPS of .927, good for 6th in the league.
Lest we forget, he's also giving the Yankees Gold Glove defense at first base.
Cons: His teammate Derek Jeter is also getting some attention as a prominent MVP candidate. This isn't really a knock against Teixeira at all, but it's hard to consider a player as the most valuable, when there is someone who is considered to be equally valuable on the roster.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
Pros: Speaking of Jeter, he's another strong candidate. He's 5th in the league with a .335 batting average, will probably finish with 20+ HR and around 75 RBI, and has been playing much improved defense, after being known as one of the worst defensive shortstops in the league for the bulk of his career.
Jeter is also as much of a threat on the basepaths as he has ever been, with 23 stolen bases. He is also likely to rack up 200 hits, for the 7th time in his career. At age 35, the Yankees captain is playing as well as he has in years, and is contributing to the Yankees in all categories of the box score.
Cons: He's not the best player on his team. And just like Teixeira might take a hit for having fellow MVP candidate Jeter in the same lineup, Jeter might have the same problem when voters take a look at the big picture.
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Pros: Mauer is everything that any team would want from their catcher. Literally. The guy's game has almost no weaknesses whatsoever. Before this year, the only thing that anyone could possibly consider a weakness was his power numbers. It really wasn't a weakness, it just wasn't a strength. And compared to the rest of Mauer's game, it just looked like a weakness, because he's just so good at everything he does.
He currently leads the league in OPS, which is generally considered the most telling statistic in terms of overall offensive production. He also plays outstanding defense behind the plate, and could win his second Gold Glove this year. And as impressive as his numbers are, he missed the entire month of April due to injury, and is still having a season for the ages.
Cons: I almost feel guilty for trying to make any kind of case against Mauer for MVP, but the fact is that the Twins right now are on pace to miss the playoffs. While there's no doubt that they would be in far worse shape without Mauer, many people subscribe to the argument that a player isn't really that valuable if his team misses the playoffs, since they could have missed the playoffs just the same without him.
Kendry Morales, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Pros: He is best known as "the guy replacing Mark Teixeira", but the fact is that he has done an excellent job replacing a player whom many thought of as irreplaceable. He's batting .311 (11th in the AL) with 30 HR (5th), 94 RBI (3rd) and a .948 OPS (4th). He's having a breakout year, and is a huge reason why the Angels overtook the Rangers to jump into first place in the AL West and the 2nd best record in all of baseball, despite tons of injuries (and even one death) in their pitching staff.
Cons: East Coast bias. It's unfortunate, but it's true. Since he doesn't play against the Red Sox or Yankees 18 times each, and he wasn't a big name coming into this season, he might be a bit forgotten when the voters cast their ballots. It's not fair, and he will probably end up several places lower than he should be, but that's the case.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Pros: He's tearing the cover off the ball this year for a 1st place team. He's 4th in the league with a .335 batting average, 3rd in OPS, 10th in home runs and 11th in RBI. He has been a huge part of the Tigers lineup this year, and has been one of the most consistent hitters in the league.
Cabrera has been hitting .364, and is on pace to top 100 RBI's for the 6th year in a row.
Cons: His numbers are solid, and his team is doing well, but the Tigers' pitching staff has gotten a lot of attention, with guys like Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and company putting in great efforts. The simple fact that the Tigers' pitching has been so good might actually hurt his chances to win the MVP.
Ben Zobrist, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Bartlett, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Boston Red Sox
In the end, my pick would have to be Joe Mauer. If the Twins miss the playoffs, it won't be by very many games at all. And his season has been a legendary one, arguably the best ever by a catcher. Considering the fact that he's also giving his team top-notch defense from one of the hardest positions on the field, he gets my vote.
Who would you pick for the 2009 AL MVP?