So what does a guy have to do to be the Most Valuable Player, for Heaven's sake?
How can a player win a batting title and a Gold Glove and still finish third in MVP balloting?
Welcome to Derrek Lee's world.
Lee hit .335 with 46 homers, 107 RBI, and a slugging percentage of .662. Those numbers crunch real good no matter what you're putting them through. Lee, along with Albert Pujols and Andruw Jones dominated most of the batting statistics in the National League. Yet he received one first place vote and one second place vote.
Voting doesn't always make sense, whether it's for MVP, the Hall of Fame, or local school boards. This will probably continue as long as voters are subject to being human. In 1941, Boston's baseball writers didn't list Ted Williams' name for any of the top three MVP spots, even though Williams hit .406, assuring Joe DiMaggio the award. That was the year of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, so it was only a travesty and not a complete travesty.
In 1987 and 2003, Andre Dawson and Alex Rodriguez won their respective leagues' MVP awards, despite leading their teams to finish in last place. While their contributions probably did make disappointing seasons a little brighter for their respective clubs, as Branch Rickey once told Ralph Kiner, "We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you.
Lee's 2005 season was either atypical or the start of something really terrific. His batting average was almost 100 points higher than his previous few seasons, and his slugging percentage over 150 points higher. Pujols has been the poster child for consistent improvement in his first four seasons, and finished in the top five for MVP each year.
It appears that Derrek Lee's biggest mistake was playing for a team that finished in fourth place, four games under .500. Pujols and Jones both led their teams to division championships. That, and the fact that Barry Bonds was largely out of the picture, meant that Lee was out of luck. Now that the baseball writers have honored Pujols, Lee could get what he deserves next season.