Analyzing the exceptions to the ‘rules’ of the AL MVP race

Kyle Scudilla

By Kyle ScudillaStaff Columnist

Every baseball fan knows the reasons why certain guys with certain numbers don’t usually win the MVP award in the Major Leagues, despite having strong seasons. Let’s take a look back in time to show why history says some of this year’s leading candidates have a chance to win the award despite being branded with some popular anti-MVP labels.Only big power hitters win MVP … except Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners, 2001)2006 Comparison: Derek Jeter (Yankees)Jeter is hoping to win the MVP in the purest way possible: by being the best player on the best team in the league. Ichiro was able to do this in his rookie season of ’01, when he batted a league-high .350 and stole 56 bases, but managed just eight home runs and 69 RBI for a Seattle club that won a record-tying 116 regular season games. While the Yankees aren’t going to win that many games, they now hold the AL’s best record in a season where many of their big guns have missed significant time due to injury. Looking at the Yankees now, one may think that with all the firepower they have (especially after Brian Cashman committed grand larceny against the Phillies and landed Bobby Abreu), Jeter is just another face in the crowd. But his significance in this race is due in large part to his work earlier this season, when he at times single-handedly kept the Yankees afloat while surrounded by minor-league call-ups and bench players filling in for the everyday starters. For Jeter to finish with his best case for MVP, he’ll have to catch Joe Mauer for the batting title and have New York finish as the No. 1 seed in the AL Playoffs.Underrated players are doomed to stay that way … except Vladimir Guerrero (Angels, 2004)2006 Comparison: Jermaine Dye (White Sox)Sure, he was the 2005 World Series MVP, and he helped lead the White Sox to their first title since manager Pants Rowland led the “pale-hosers” to the Promised Land in 1917, but the name Jermaine Dye still doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of Big Papi or A-Rod. No one can argue with Dye’s numbers this year, as they’ve kept him in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories for most of the year. The 2006 season has easily been his best season and has generated MVP buzz in his direction, but it might take a bit more to get Dye the award. If he can finish hot and carry the White Sox to a playoff berth (much like Vlad did with the Angels in 2004), Jermaine’s chances will increase drastically. While Guerrero has always been a big name in baseball circles, he was never a Bonds or Griffey until he single-handedly carried Anaheim to the postseason two years ago.Players from smaller markets can’t win MVP … except Jason Giambi (A’s, 2000) and Miguel Tejada (A’s, 2002)2006 Comparison: Justin Morneau (Twins)Don’t tell Morneau that Minnesota doesn’t have enough pop in its line-up. The Twins’ first baseman is having a break-out year and should end the year with over 35 home runs and 120 RBI. Even though the Twins don’t get the press that some of their adversaries do, their comeback story in the tough AL Central has made waves through the baseball community, especially now that they’re closer than ever to topping Detroit for first place in the division. Blazing hot finishes by the lesser-market Oakland Athletics in 2000 and 2002 helped give them two MVP winners in three seasons. If Minnesota finishes 2006 as the Central champs, Morneau may have as good a case as anyone to win MVP. Starting pitchers only play every fifth day and can’t win MVP … except Roger Clemens (Red Sox, 1986)2006 Comparison: Johan Santana (Twins)Some will argue that there are two reasons why Minnesota was able to overcome a mediocre start and turn into one of baseball’s hottest teams after the month of April: Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. The lefty duo led the Twins back into the hunt, and the team hasn’t let up since. Liriano, however, has been on the DL since Aug. 8. Since that date, Santana has had as many wins (six) as the rest of the Twins’ starting pitchers combined. In addition, he leads the AL in all three pitching Triple Crown categories with 18 wins, the only sub-3.00 ERA in the league, and 230 strikeouts. You can start to see why, statistically speaking, he may be able to overcome many voters’ biases against selecting pitchers on their ballot. Still, he’s going to have to finish as the Triple Crown winner to even have a chance.Teams out of playoff contention can’t have a true candidate … except Alex Rodriguez (Rangers, 2003)2006 Comparison: David Ortiz (Red Sox)Sure it’s ironic to compare Ortiz to A-Rod after Rodriguez bested Big Papi for AL MVP award last year, but Ortiz himself made that connection just this week. Of course, when Rodriguez won MVP in 2003, his Rangers were in last place, so the Texas ’03 to Boston ’06 association is far from perfect. However, Ortiz is right in saying that it was A-Rod’s individual achievements (47 HR and 118 RBI) and not his team’s performance (a 71-91 record) that got him the award. Papi maintains that even though the Red Sox have fallen out of the pennant chase, he should end up with 50 homers and 130-140 RBI, numbers the voters shouldn’t completely ignore.Designated hitters can’t win the award because they don’t play the field … except …Well, I guess Travis Hafner, who was putting up monster numbers with the Indians this year, doesn’t stand a chance after all. Ask David Ortiz.