Update: Joey Votto has been named 2010 NL Most Valuable Player!!!
It's been fifteen years since the Reds have had a legitimate candidate for National League MVP, and just like in 1995, if you had predicted in the spring that the Reds would have a winner, most people would have looked at you like you were crazy. In 95, it was because the Reds' candidate was a top of the order shortstop with 15 home runs, and typically, those types of players don't get MVP votes. This year, unless you were one of the few to predict the Reds as a 90 win team, you simply had to figure that no matter how well a Red played, they wouldn't be a serious option.
Well, here we are in November: our beloved Reds are the NL Central Champions, and our best player, Joey Votto, is the prohibitive favorite for the award. Before we go any further, let's admit and recognize that no matter what happens Monday at 2:00, it's pretty freaking cool that Votto is getting this type of respect and publicity, shall we? Okay. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's break down the five top candidates, in my opinion, for the award:
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Numbers: .312/.414/.596, 42 HR, 118 RBI, 14 SB
The Case For: He's Albert Pujols. That means, he's the accepted 'best player in baseball,' and as much as I hate the Redbirds (and I do. A LOT), he may be the best player of the last thirty years or so. So how is he NOT the MVP? Plus, he's already got a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger; how can another first baseman finish ahead of him when he's the 'best' at the plate and in the field. And oh yeah - he leads the league in the 'big' stats, home runs and RBI.
The Case Against: He's not Joey Votto. That means, he's not even the best first baseman in his own division, and it's arguable if he had a better season than Adrian Gonzalez as well. If this were a lifetime achievement award, that'd be fine, but it's not - it's based on this year only. And while we're here, let's remember that the Cardinals didn't just fail to make the playoffs; they failed by not being able to beat terrible teams, and they went into a tailspin in August to sew things up for the Reds. And MVP would have/should probably not come from a heavily favored team that couldn't beat the Pirates, should it?
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
Numbers: .336/.376/.598, 34 HR, 117 RBI, 26 SB
The Case For: Ask Brandon Phillips - the guy can do more on the baseball field than anyone on this list. He plays a tougher defensive position (well), and he's a threat at the plate, in the field, and on the bases. Plus, he won the batting title.
The Case Against: For one, he's not the best player on his own team - that's Troy Tulowitzki, who's on this list if he's not hurt. And for two, I can't trust Colorado. They were accused of cheating, and when MLB stepped in, that was enough for me to believe that Cargo's home road splits aren't a coincidence. This guy is the one on the list that I'll be truly upset about if he wins the award.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres
Numbers: .298/.393/.511, 31 HR, 101 RBI
The Case For: If Bud Black is the Manager of the Year, why not A-Gon for MVP? He was the best player, by a long shot, on THE surprise of the year. Furthermore, his numbers are affected by playing in the toughest hitter's park in the majors'. Clearly, in GABP or Coors Field, his numbers would be much more gaudy.
The Case Against: San Diego didn't make the playoffs, and, just like St. Louis, collapsed epically. I have a hard time giving the award to a player whose team played with their hands around their throat at the end of the season, no matter how good he played all year.
Aubrey Huff, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Numbers: .290/.385/.506, 26 HR, 86 RBI
The Case For: Bottom line - he was the best player on the World Series Champs. His RBI look modest, but that makes sense considering the lineup he played in. But, if players get credit for getting to the playoffs, Huff HAS to be there somewhere.
The Case Against: If the votes were cast after the postseason, maybe. But during the regular season, he wasn't close to as accomplished as the other first basemen on the list. Being a regular season award, he warrants a mention, but that's it.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Numbers: .324/.424/.600, 37 HR, 113 RBI, 15 SB
The Case For: The Bat led the league in on base percentage, slugging, and would have won the batting title if the Rockies weren't dirty cheaters. He was the best player on a surprising division champ (beating the team of his closest competitor), and he improved in the field enough so that he's no longer a liability. Best of all, as Reds fans watched all season, he was a beast in the clutch: .369/.491/.638 with RISP, .370/.453/.685 in 'late and close' situations.
The Case Against: He's not Albert Pujols (see above). The voting will be ridiculous if he wins; how is neither the best defensive first baseman nor the best offensive first baseman, yet he's the MVP of the whole league? That's terribly inconsistent, even considering coaches vote on the Gold Gloves. Plus, the Reds were the most balanced team in the league, going 8-4 in games he didn't play. Percentage wise, that means they should have just played Miguel Cairo at first base instead of Votto.
Verdict: Okay, so I had to come up with something against Votto. As you can see, it's tough - my unoffical ballot looks like this:
1. Joey Votto
2. Albert Pujols
3. Adrian Gonzalez
4. Aubrey Huff
5. Carlos Gonzalez
Now it's your turn - you get five guys for your ballot. Do you give Cargo the 'cheating' penalty, like me? Do you think Aubrey Huff is deserving of a mention? Who will anger you the most if it's not Votto? Leave your comments in the replies and cross your fingers/rub a rabbit's foot/say a prayer for Joey this Monday!