|Monday, November 11
Updated: November 12, 3:16 PM ET
Pick your poison: Who is MVP?
By Jim Baker
The American League Most Valuable Player Award will be announced on Tuesday. Listed below are the top handful of candidates (well, Antonio Alfonseca's handful) listed in the order I believe they will finish:
1. Miguel Tejada, SS, A's
2. Alfonso Soriano, 2B, Yankees
Here's the conundrum of modern MVP voting: The current thinking is that, in order for a player to win the MVP, he must play for a contender. However, in order for a team to contend, the player must have two or three teammates who play at a high caliber as well, diversifying the credit for the team's success. Soriano played for a contender in 2002, but two of his teammates, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams, enjoyed seasons of either nearly equal or greater caliber. How can a player distinguish himself as "most valuable" when he is operating in a theater with other skilled surgeons? Furthermore, can a player be the most valuable player of a league when he is not even the most valuable on his own team?
3. Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers
A-Rod had the best season in the American League, hands down and he will, once again, be denied the MVP award. We shouldn't feel too sorry for Alex, though. He's got money, a cool job, a new wife and a one-way ticket to Cooperstown. He's just not going to win any MVPs due to circumstances beyond his control.
4. Jason Giambi, 1B, Yankees
Speaking of Ichiro, there is a valuable lesson in his 2001-2002 seasons. Let's see if I can figure out what it is. I think it is this: an exciting, new player looks great on a team that wins 116 games but not quite so great on one that wins 93. Therefore, we cannot hope to find him in the top 10 for voting this year, a drop-off in finish disproportionate to his drop-off in production.
5. Jim Thome, 1B, Indians
Tejada had Eric Chavez (not to mention three of the most valuable pitchers in the league in Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Billy Koch), Soriano and Giambi had each other and Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez had Rafael Palmiero whose Viagra campaign got so much ink that it obscured the fact that he was having a wonderful season. Thome had Ellis Burks, but after that it was on over-achieving Omar Vizquel and precious little else. What would it take for Thome to win an MVP award? I think if he signed with the Phillies and they made it to the postseason, he would be in a pretty good position to get himself one.
6. Garret Anderson, LF, Angels
Others worth mentioning:
Manny Ramirez took himself out of the running with his headfirst slide into home plate that resulted in his missing 30 games. Had he played the full complement, he would not have been denied a top-five or -six finish. ... Bernie Williams would pretty much have to light Yankee Stadium on fire and then put it out himself to get MVP notice at this point in his career. He's just been too good and too unspectacular for too long to put a spike in the EKG of his career that voters might notice. ... Magglio Ordonez plied his trade in the publicity-free zone known as New Comiskey Park for a team that went nowhere in a city where Sammy Sosa gets all the press. Their seasons were actually quite comparable. ... It used to be that a shortstop who drove in 120 runs could just about order the engraving on the MVP Award himself, but Nomar Garciaparra is operating in the most talent-intensive shortstop environment in history and might be lucky to crack the top 10 this year. Given that the Red Sox are going to be the predictive team of choice for next year, I would put him as the early favorite for 2003.
Jim Baker writes Monday through Friday for ESPN Insider. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.