I'm a little disenchanted with baseball at the moment, since the best five sports months of the year begin next Thursday, and also because the Astros just fired the only MLB general manager I've ever had dinner with. But with this blog's two favorite baseball teams playing big four-game series right now, this is a pretty big baseball week here on TGWNA. The Pads are fighting for the division, the Phils are trying to keep pace in the Wild Card, and both of them just won the opener, thanks at least in part to their second basemen: Geoff Blum and Chase Utley each homered today.
Forgive me, Pads fans, if I focus more on Utley. Chase made a great sliding play to get Reyes on the second pitch of the game, then waited all of three ABs to shake 31 days of rust by jacking a homer to left-center. He followed that with an RBI double to the same gap and a bloop opposite-way single. The guy who, a month ago, was odds-on favorite to be your 2007 NL MVP is back.
The question is, can he still win it? Any other year, after missing a solid month, the answer would probably be, "No." But this year there's more of a logjam among the senior circuit's elite than I can ever remember. As I see it, we've got the following:
Prince Fielder -- probably has the best case right now. Leads the NL in HR and SLG. Although it's worth mentioning that he's ninth among this group in VORP -- his .376 OBP probably has something to do with it -- and if the Brewers tank, he loses a lot of that feel-good vibe.
Hanley Ramirez -- has everything you could want, offensively: 23 HR, 43 SBs, .331 AVG, .558 SLG. But he's also probably the worst defensive shortstop in the NL. Still, despite that, he leads the league in VORP. But his team sucks. If the award were really about the best player, he'd probably win.
Albert Pujols -- Well, he is Albert Pujols. And he is going to be an NL MVP candidate for the foreseeable future. But he's not having his best year, and his team isn't very good, either.
The "one hot month" guys:
Chase Utley -- Was the clear leader when he got hurt. Still leads the league in hitting and is sixth in VORP despite missing a month. And he's the best player at his position by leaps and bounds. But his power totals will suffer from the missed time. He essentially needs to have a monster month and lead the Phils to the playoffs.
Miguel Cabrera -- good in every category (except defense), but not clearly better than anybody else here in anything. Plus he's the second-best player on his own team, a team which happens to suck, and he's gotten a lot of bad pub about his weight and attitude.
Chipper Jones -- stats are virtually identical to Utley's, including games played, which is a problem. But he plays third base, a more valuable position than most of these other guys, though not Utley.
Ryan Howard -- thanks to Utley (and MVP pitch-dark horse Jimmy Rollins [racist!]), he still leads the league in RBIs, despite missing most of April with injuries and pretty much every single pitch he's swung at in August. Also third in homers. And you could make a case that he's the third-best player in the Phillies' infield. But he is the reigning MVP, and he is capable of incredible months. He'll need another one to seriously contend, and the Phillies making the playoffs wouldn't hurt (although that would probably give it to Utley).
David Wright -- If we wiped April off the books, he'd win it in a walk. He hits for average and power, steals bases, plays great defense, anchors a first-place team, the works. But he was so bad early on that his final season totals probably won't be good enough.
The dark horses, including one white person who keeps me from sounding racist!:
Jose Reyes -- depends how much the voters value speed and defense. He's exceptional in both categories, and he plays a valuable defensive position, but he has no pop, and I have a hard time believing we're going to see an MVP with 12 homers, 60 RBIs, and a sub-.450 SLG.
Matt Holliday -- good player across the board, plays for a mediocre team in a bad market, probably not quite exceptional enough in any area to stand out.
Jimmy Rollins -- go ahead, call me a homer. Then look at his stats. He leads the league in runs scored, is fourth in hits, first in triples, great on defense, and he has an outside chance at being a 30/30 guy, all while leading the league in at-bats. If the Phils make the playoffs, you're telling me he shouldn't get more credit than Utley or Howard?
Their teams are just too bad:
Carlos Lee -- see Holliday, Matt, except substitute "terrible team that just fired its entire staff" for "mediocre team."
The pitcher: (usually, this would be just about impossible, but I don't think so this year)
Jake Peavy -- Leads all pitchers in VORP, Ks (by 31!), wins, 2nd in ERA, all-around the best pitcher in the NL this year any way you slice it, and pretty clearly, to me at least, the best in baseball. If a pitcher wins it, it's gonna be him. But still, he's a pitcher, and I don't think a pitcher will win it, unless he's really stellar down the stretch and the Pads win something.
And we're done. Sorry that was exhausting, but that's the whole point -- I just mentioned 14 guys, eight of whom shouldn't surprise anybody if they win the MVP.
And, yes, three of whom are Phillies. You suckas are lucky I didn't include Pat Burrell!