Every team has its own, but only one player from each league will be voted the undisputed most valuable player. The 2009 season is ripe with stars that have made an otherwise mediocre team into a playoff hopeful. There are some players, like Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals (10th in the AL with a 12-8 record, 1st with a 2.43 ERA), or Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres (6th in the NL with 34 homeruns, 18th with 77 RBI) who may be the best on their teams, but aren’t enough to lift their team out of the gutter, so they won’t appear on the list despite their value. Here’s a list of some potential playoff bound stars who will likely earn the title of Most Valuable Player this year.
The American League Contenders
1. Joe Mauer, The Minnesota Twins
He’s been known to have the best swing in baseball and he has proven it again this season as he leads the majors with a .371 average. He’s a three-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Sugger, a two-time AL batting champion, and a gold glove winner. He’s just never won an MVP award. It’s not surprise considering the Minnesota Twins just don’t have the weapons to be major threat anymore. The Twins do, however, have a chance to make the postseason. The only reason the Detroit Tigers sit less than five games ahead of the Twins is Miguel Cabrera who is not only a MVP candidate as well, but the team leader in homeruns, RBIs and average (27, 82, .338). Moe Mauer is giving this team the best shot at the postseason and he’s putting up numbers in his career that are almost unheard of these days. The Twins should lock up starting pitcher Brad Penny from the Boston Red Sox so Mauer has a little more help down the stretch as the race heats up.
2. Mark Teixeira, The New York Yankees
There’s potential of a lot of back and forth with this choice between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. On the one hand, as the captain and perennial producer at shortstop, Jeter has been the rock of the team. He sits atop the Yankees and 5th in the American League in batting with a .333 average and within the top 50 in the league in RBIs and homeruns. On the other hand, Mark Teixeira held this team up when Alex Rodriguez was down with injuries earlier on this season. He leads the league with 97 RBIs and sits fourth with 31 homeruns. Both Jeter and Teixeira are viable candidates from the team with the best record in baseball, but even in fielding Teixeira leads the Yanks. He’s only committed one error in over 120 games played this season while Jeter, though he’s racked up 282 assists to Teixeira’s 44, has given up six errors. On a team that gets help from all sides, Jeter may be the face of the organization, but Teixeira has held this team up on all sides and though he was the dog of the team when the season started, he’s the top dog as it ends.
3. Kevin Youkilis, The Boston Red Sox
Red Sox fans can thank Josh Beckett and his 14-5 season for holding up the team during its year of injuries and disappointments on the mound, but he only plays one game out of five. Kevin Youkilis has been the absolute backbone of the Red Sox team since Manny Ramirez was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers and David Ortiz hit his slump. Jason Bay has been a surprise in the outfield this season, hitting for the most RBIs on the team with 92 and the most homeruns with 29, but Youkilis, like Jeter, has been the face of the organization. This year Youkilis has hit at a team-leading .306 average with 22 homeruns and 74 RBIs. He’s been a utility guy in the outfield and at third and first base with all the injuries and he’s been the best of the team and the voice of a team that’s been bashed and beat up as they slide away from contention.
The National League Contenders
1. Albert Pujols, The St. Louis Cardinals
This may be Pujols’ year again as he vies for his third National League MVP award of his career. He’s one of the most prolific and impressive hitters of our era and continued to dominate the majors with a MLB leading 41 homeruns, a .319 average (5th in the NL), and 109 RBIs (3rd in the NL). It looks like the Cardinals are going to be the favorite in the postseason for the National League with Pujols’ bat, and pitchers Adam Wainwright (1st in the NL with 15 wins, fourth with a 2.50 ERA), Chris Carpenter (2nd in the NL with 14 wins, first with a 2.20 ERA), and closer Ryan Franklin with 34 saves (1st in the NL). He’s an eight time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger, A Golden Glove winner, and Batting Champion, and a World Series winner. Pujols is probably going to have a few more World Championship rings before his career his through and a potential MVP award at the season’s end.
2. Hanley Ramirez, The Florida Marlins
The Marlins are slipping out of contention at this point, but they are holding on thanks to the all-around stellar bat of Ramirez. He leads the National League with a .362 average and is in the top 30 in RBIs and homeruns. Ramirez is also a quick base runner and has opened up this year with 24 stolen bases. If not for Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and Pujols, Ramirez may have been the face of the National League, but he plays on a team that is short on star power in a small market so there’s little chance he’ll win this honor over Pujols. He is going to have to wait another year to really make another push for MVP.
3. Prince Fielder, The Milwaukee Brewers
The Cardinals are the team to beat in the NL Central division and the Brewers aren’t even in second place. Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants is probably a fairly good candidate to place in third right here, but that’s only because he’s the only real threat in a clubhouse that may not even make it to the postseason. Fielder, on the other hand, has been a dominant presence in the MLB this year, and despite the fact that the Brewers won’t be making the postseason, he’s kept them alive through most of the regular season. He is atop the majors with 119 RBIs, fourth in the NL with 36 homeruns, and in the top of the league with a .303 average. He’s one of the major players in the National League and will be one of the few names floating around as the MVP votes come in.
There are a number of names that could have made this list. Again, the Giants’ Sandoval’s .336 average has been one of the reasons that the Colorado Rockies aren’t a lock as the NL wildcard leader. Ryan Howard is one of the names in the National League that will be in the mix, especially considering the Phillies are definitely playoff bound, but this whole season was a team effort. On the American League side of things The Los Angeles Angels are contenders thanks in part for Kendry Morales (.309 average, 29 homeruns, 91 RBIs), but when it comes down to it, the leading contenders are going to be from the leaders of the pack, and unless Morales can turn this team into MLB record leaders, there’s little chance he’ll steal the prize. There’s a month left of baseball and there’s plenty of room for some players to pull away. Usually, it’s the second half of the season that really makes or break the MVP vote anyway, and the top three contenders on each side of the division have a shot at the prize.