The National League Most Valuable Player Award came down to three candidates who had remarkably similar seasons in several statistical categories. The consensus on the American League seems to suggest a similar three-headed race, but there are disparities on several fronts.
One played sparingly down the stretch, one was on a .500 team and the other was robbed of some of the limelight by his high-powered teammates.
Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre will not win the award but he likely will battle with Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista to finish just behind the big three, who should finish in this order:
1) Josh Hamilton, Rangers
The one knock on Hamilton is that he missed 29 games and his team went 19-10 in that span. But the majority of those Hamilton-less affairs occurred in the final month of the season, which Texas entered leading the AL West by 8 ½ games. The division was already sewn up largely based on what Hamilton had done before taking a seat and resting up for the playoffs. The league-leader in batting (.359), slugging (.633) and OPS (1.044), Hamilton was the catalyst behind fourth-ranked offense and the man in the middle of its defense, showcasing a pretty good glove in center field. Although the injuries at the end may steer a voter or two elsewhere, consider that Hamilton hit .402 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs from the end of May through the end of the season. A day off here and there is worth it for production like that.
2) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Nobody on this list had less protection and support in the lineup than Cabrera, whose 126 RBIs paced the AL. Detroit?s offense was rather ordinary but would?ve been a disaster if not for the presence of Cabrera. The 26-year-old hit at least .323 in each of the first four months, capped by a .398 effort in July. He hit ?only? .280 thereafter as opposing pitchers worked around him and feasted on the fading Tigers, who were 10 games under .500 after the All-Star break. Cabrera would win this if it was a year where playoff teams had no true standouts. Detroit?s 81-81 finish doesn?t do him any favors.
3) Robinson Cano, Yankees
Just as Cabrera gets knocked down a peg for being on an average team, Cano seems to suffer the same fate for being part of the power-packed Bronx Bombers, who led the majors in runs scored for the fourth time in five years. However, those who give him a demerit should also pause and consider the fact that several of the superstars around Cano had down years, and that the second baseman?s defense rounded into form in 2010, leading to his first Gold Glove. Also, Cano played 27 more games than Hamilton and 10 more than Cabrera. As one of just two players in the league with at least 200 hits (Ichiro Suzuki was the other), he was a consistent offensive and defensive force for New York.