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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The National League MVP Voters Got It Right

Albert Pujols is the best player in the National League, and, yes, in 2008 he was the most valuable, or, at least, deserving of the award. He kept a so-so at best Cardinals team in the hunt for most of the year, and that effort, while playing with a bad elbow, and his numbers, were worthy of the National League's most valuable player award.

Yes, I am a Phillies' partisan, but no Phillies' position player deserved the MVP award this year. While Phillies' fans chanted "MVP" near the end of the season when Ryan Howard came to the plate, the slugging first baseman didn't have the numbers that Pujols did and was not nearly as consistent. But for an awesome September, Howard would have had an average year (for a slugger, and not just for him). That September was memorable and helped propel the Phillies to the NL East title, of that there is little doubt. But Howard's body of work during the year didn't merit the MVP award.

As it was, the Philadelphia chapter of the baseball writers voted Brad Lidge the team's MVP, and they got it right. Going into the 2008 season, I had said that if the Phillies hit the way they did in 2007 and got some better pitching, they could win the division (of course, I said this before the Mets acquired Johan Santana). As it turned out, the team didn't hit the way it did in 2007, but the pitching -- and particularly the bullpen -- was better. The major difference was in the closer position, where Brad Lidge had a perfect game of a year. As for the position players, well, Jimmy Rollins' overall game was in a funk through August, Chase Utley didn't look right after May (although he revived nicely late in the year), Pat Burrell was about even (although he didn't do much from August through year's end, although, yes, he did have a few big hits).

But why digress on the details? Two years ago, Rollins was the MVP, and three years ago it was Howard. Utley was a favorite going into this season, and his torrid early months forecast a third MVP award in a row for the Phillies. But does it really matter? All members of the 2008 Phillies contributed to something much more satisfying -- a championship.

Yes, it's nice to get the hardware, and it's nice to be called a Cy Young Award winner, a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star, an MVP Award winner, a Gold Glover (and, yes, Chase Utley should have won one this year, too).

But it's even better to be called a champion.


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