The Five Hole with Chris Gift

With the Election Day eight weeks from this Tuesday (and just to freak everybody out, Christmas is less than three and a half months away), pretty soon every Dr. Z., Taylor Hicks and Travelocity roaming gnome commercial will be replaced with "I'm great, they're awful, vote for me," ads.

In the spirit of that, here's some good old fashioned stumping for the incumbent National League Most Valuable Player, Albert Pujols.

As in any election, the first thing is to eliminate any unworthy challengers:

In 2004, Pujols (.331 BA, 43 HR, 123 RBI), Scott Rolen (.314, 34, 124, Gold Glove) and Jim Edmonds (.301, 42, 11, Gold Glove), the Cardinals so-called "MV3", finished third through fifth respectively that year behind San Francisco's Barry Bonds (.362, 45, 101) and Los Angeles' Adrian Beltre (.334, 48, 121). If Pujols' 247 MVP votes were added with Edmonds' 160, it would have equaled Bonds' winning total of 407. The MVP is an individual award in a team game. The award is given for the last name on the back of the jersey, not because of the team name on the front. Too many writers voted for "one of the Cardinals" instead of the one Giant, or the one Dodger that was in contention.

New York has the same issue with David Wright, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran. The Mets this year, like the Cardinals two years ago, are by far and away the best team in the NL, and because of three solid players (ironically, a first baseman, a third baseman, and a centerfielder), they should represent the league in the World Series, but like St. Louis' MV3, none of the three will win the MVP.

Alfonso Soriano, Washington's leadoff man, has a chance to go 50-50. Repeating on purpose: Alfonso Soriano has a chance to hit fifty home runs and steal fifty bases. Jose Canseco won the MVP in 1988 when he was the first player to achieve 40-40. But Canseco is the only 40/40er to win the MVP. Bonds finished fifth in 1996, and Alex Rodriguez finished ninth two years later.

The Nationals are going to finish fifth in their division and the last player to win MVP on a last place team in the National League was Andre Dawson in 1987 (irony again, Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark finish second and third that year, add the two votes together and Dawson gets lapped). Soriano may be the Most Versatile Player, but not the Most Valuable.

The next thing in an election is to identify the primary challenger, and offer praise:

St. Louisan Ryan Howard is having the first legitimate (non-steroid) run at Roger Maris' single season home run record since Matt  Williams in 1994. Six weeks ago, Phillies General Manager Pat Gillick traded his second best player (Bobby Abreu), his starting third baseman (David Bell), and one of his starting pitchers to the Yankees (Corey Lidle) and attempted to borrow a line from the Cubs annual plan every August; "Wait ‘till next year."

One problem: he forgot to let Howard know about this.

The Phillies have a legitimate shot, with no help from any of the trades made by Gillick at the deadline, at winning the wild card.

The race for MVP is between Howard and Pujols. The winner is either going to be a power hitting lefty from St. Louis playing in Philadelphia, or a power hitting righty from Kansas City playing in St. Louis. The numbers are extremely close, but as the baseball writers have shown recently, the award is the incumbent's to lose, and Albert hasn't done much to lose it this season.

Lastly, lots of analysts say that the team has to win for a player to be considered for the MVP (unless they have an insane season like Bonds did last year). The Cardinals are going to win the National League Central. The Phillies are going to finish, at best, second in the National League East. To quote Kansas City Chiefs' coach Herm Edwards, "Hello? You play to win the games!"

The Mets are going to run away with the NL East. There is still a chance the Florida Marlins may overtake the Phillies to finish second in the East (and in the process win the Wild Card and probably fire their manager).

Pujols' team did its job. Howard's didn't.

Howard and Pujols have monopolized the tops of most offensive slugging categories, while both hitting well above .300.

Pujols' defense is better than Howard's. Howard plays in a more hitter friendly ballpark, but Pujols' protection, Rolen, is better than Howard's, Pat Burrell.

Howard has a Secretariat-like lead in RBI over not only Pujols, but the rest of Major League Baseball, but Pujols has scored more runs than Howard.

In most categories, Pujols and Howard are neck and neck. This election has turned into a situation where selecting either player is correct, but just like those standardized tests in high school, it's about selecting the "most correct" answer.

Pujols' team is winning, Pujols is better defensively, Pujols has been there before. Pujols is the "most correct" answer.

Vote Albert in '06.

[This ad paid for by "Pujols for MVP". Chris Gift, Treasurer]



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