by Suzie Raven
All week, Philadelphia Phillies fans have been complaining that the Cardinals' Albert Pujols beat Ryan Howard for National League MVP. For the second time in team history, Philadelphia Phillies fans have nothing to complain about.
The Phillies dominated the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two playoff series on the way to beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. Key hits came from all over the line-up, including a mammoth pinch hit homerun from Matt Stairs in game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Pitching was outstanding, topped off by closer Brad Lidge, who did not miss a save all season. This is more than enough to keep me happy until April.
With 146 RBIs and a league leading 48 homeruns Howard certainly had plenty of clutch hits for the Phillies. However, these are the only two categories where he outshone Pujols. Pujols absolutely deserved to be named MVP.
The Cardinals' first baseman’s numbers were astronomical this year. He hit .357 with a .462 on-base percentage. His .653 slugging percentage was more than 60 points better than anyone else in Major League Baseball. Out of 641 plate appearances, he only struck out 54 times. Ryan Howard struck out 199 times, the second most in the National League. On top of it all, Pujols is as consistent as anyone could ask for.
The only argument to choose Howard over Pujols is that the Cardinals did not make the playoffs, instead finishing fourth in their division. (In the American League, earlier this week, Boston's Dustin Pedroia was named the MVP, representing a playoff team, the Red Sox.) That doesn’t support the argument that the award should go to someone other than Pujols. It supports the argument that the Cardinals should bolster the rest of their line-up to make proper use of his talent.
Baseball is a team sport. It takes nine fielders, nine bats, strong pitchers, solid relief, a reliable bench, shrewd management and intelligent coachers to be a contender. If one player could carry the team to the playoffs, teams would not need a 25-man roster.
And it’s not like Howard hasn’t received proper acclaim. He won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and MVP in 2006. He’s been a solid contender for the award all of this past season, while being one of the most prominent figures on the 2008 World Championship team. Oh yeah, and he has a World Series ring.
Given the choice, I’ll take a team World Series ring over an MVP award for one player any day.
(Photo of Albert Pujols by todonitido via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.)
St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox
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by Suzie Raven