Justin Verlander’s Dominance Will Spoil Jacoby Ellsbury’s Big Year, Steal Spotlight No Matter Who Wins MVP

Justin Verlander's Dominance Will Spoil Jacoby Ellsbury's Big Year, Steal Spotlight No Matter Who Wins MVP Jacoby Ellsbury has the stats to win the 2011 American League MVP award.

He’s kept Boston afloat down the team’s rocky stretch and his numbers are balanced and simply brilliant. There are, however, two big obstacles that will likely keep him from bagging the title: the ridiculous dominance that Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has shown this summer and, even moreso, the media interest around the whole pitcher-MVP debate.

Verlander’s stats are downright sick — much like they are every year. While Ellsbury’s stats are equally ill, it’s, for lack of a better phrase, almost too boring to pick a sneaky power-hitting leadoff guy who is playing on a big-market team gaining headlines only for their late-season downfalls. With debates swirling as to whether — and rightfully so, why — pitchers deserve MVP recognition, things aren’t looking good for Ellsbury.

Voting for Verlander is edgy, exciting and different. It’s going to be a popular debate for quite some time and what better time than now to anoint a hurler as league’s MVP for the first time since closer Dennis Eckersley won it in 1992?

Even if Ellsbury does win the award, which I believe he should, how buried will the feat go in the media and memories of baseball fans? Think about it: This debate happens just about every year in MLB. In Boston (and beyond), fans were outraged when pitcher Pedro Martinez, who despite receiving the most first-place votes (eight), fell 13 overall points behind this player for AL MVP. Yes, I said “this player” because — and be honest — do you even know who was named the ’99 AL MVP? Yes, you probably do, but you probably only know Ivan Rodriguez won it that year because he’s “the guy who wrongfully edged out Pedro for the ’99 MVP award.” That’s not to take anything away from Pudge, who batted .332 with career highs in homers (35) and RBIs (113).

(Martinez, by the way, earned all 28 first-place votes for the Cy Young Award that season. Eck, in his ’92 AL MVP season, grabbed 19 of 28 first-place votes en route to his Cy Young Award.)

If Ells does, in fact, win the award, he will almost certainly fall victim to this year’s edition of “that guy” — the fielder who took the AL MVP award from Verlander, simply because Verlander’s a pitcher. No matter how this season ends, it will be the year either A, Verlander dominated his way to the first AL Cy Young-MVP double crown since Eck, or B, the year Ellsbury became Pudge Rodriguez.

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