History has ample evidence of MLB ballplayers having banner years only to be robbed of a potential MVP award when a freak statistical anomaly occurs and someone drops from the heavens to steal the trophy from one more deserving. By definition, the term MVP suggests that the specific athlete be not only indispensable to his own particular team, but also to have dominated the league in several key offensive categories -generally homers and RBI.
With a new and ever-evolving set of metrics to measure the value of a player it has become increasingly difficult for voters to truly form an objective opinion. The actual voters are typically senior baseball journalists and while they intend to make the proper choices they have dropped the ball on more than one occasion and have let sentiment or subjective analysis get in the way of the more obvious picks.
Legends are made over time and aided by the coverage of people like those journalists, and to a lesser degree by peons like myself, but suffice to say that folks like Albert Pujols have come by their celebrity quite honestly. His annual stats have the voting somewhat skewed before the process ever really begins in that his prodigious numbers never seem to vary and have people considering him prematurely without doing the extra legwork to look behind the scenes.
A true MVP is a player who his club can't survive without, and with all due respect to King Albert, he happens to have plenty of offensive support within the lineup and consequently the Cardinals are awash in sluggers. The addition of outfielder Matt Holliday and the emerging superstar Colby Rasmusbothtake the pressure off of Pujols and when you look closely at his 2010 numbers, you just don't get the sense of his usual total domination of the competition. With that said, he will no doubt finish near or at the top of most of the vital offensive stats and even steal the occasional base.
Another annual consideration is Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins, but the shortstop is having a sub par season statistically and without a monster finish to his season he cannot be considered a realistic factor.
The dilemma of possibly choosing a pitcher for the MVP honours happens when someone like Ubaldo Jimenez rips up the league with numbers that not only justify a Cy Young Award, but also point the voting conscience toward the idea that he deserves both trophies. If Jimenez finishes at 28-4 and the Rockies make the post-season, which is unlikely, than even I would vote for him. But
A slugging Canadian first baseman from the Cincinnati Reds named Joey Votto does not sit parked in the middle of a powerful lineup and although he has the talented and dependable Brandon Phillips and up and coming outfielder Jay Bruce to help shoulder the load, Votto is essentially a one-man show on a team carried largely by it's superior pitching.
At last glance, Votto is at the top of most of the offensive categories, but will face stiff competition from the young star - Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, whose five-tool talents are impossible to ignore.
Votto's numbers across the board reflect his monster offensive season, but fail to illustrate his dugout presence and leadership qualities. The guy comes to play everyday and plays every game like it was his last. Ironically, his Reds play a crucial series against St. Louis this week and before this goes to print the ultimate victor in the MVP race may have already been decided.
Pujols may yet end up with the hardware, but Votto has made a world of new fans and not just in Cincy. He makes all of us proud that Canada is well represented at the MLB level and not just with second-rate talent.
The Twin's Justin Morneau was in serious contention for the AL MVP until de-railed with concussion issues and the trophy seems destined for the big bopper from Detroit - Miguel Cabrera when in reality Robinson Cano of the Yankees might be the best all around player in either league right now when you factor in his flashy glove work and unparalleled consistency. Cano however is doomed when you look at the surrounding lineup that Girardi puts on the diamond everyday and the gist of being the most valuable means he can't afford to be out of the lineup.
Space prevents me from illustrating the many controversial MVP decisions over the years, but in closing, the voters need to look beyond the homer and RBI count to include how many games a player can win with his glove and or base running skills and most importantly how important he is to his club, whether his club is in contention for winning a pennant or not.
Votto has my vote, but as we all know - I'm a nobody until some of you vote me the MVP of sports columnists and support my status as a learned and valuable voice of baseball.
Thanks for reading.