However, I believe Pujols will struggle mightily when he initially returns from the disabled list, which opens the door for someone else to take home the hardware at season's end.
Before I make my selection and explain the reasoning behind it, let me just quiet one potential argument you might have right now. There is specualation abound that players in their contract year, like Fielder and Reyes, can just flip a switch and turn it on and improve their play so they can increase their price tag when free-agent bidding war begins.
Some believe that this 'switch' is the main reason that these two names are even in contention for the National League MVP Award. Though I doubt that's really possible to do in baseball, it's definitely something that is constantly brought up as a potential reason for why a certain player is having an exceptional statistical season.
I completely disagree.
I don't believe that this so-called 'switch' exists anymore in America's favorite pasttime; especially now that the steroid era now seems to be a relic of the game's past.
Need any additional proof that steroids are no longer a part of the game? The proof is as clear as Goose Gossage's mustache is thick. The dominance of the pitcher has reigned over these last few seasons and a new era has begun - the Era of the Pitcher.
But despite all of the great arms in baseball today, there are still those select few, those truly elite hitters that have the necessary tools and know-how to get it done day in and day out.
Two such players are Jose Reyes and Prince Fielder. Reyes and Fielder are both fantastic players in the prime of their careers; and one could easily make an argument for either of them.
But if I had to pick one to be this seaon's NL MVP, my money would be on Prince Fielder, and here's why:
The first thing I look at when choosing Fielder over Reyes is their teams' respective records.
Brewers: 45-41, 1.0 game back in the NL Central.
Mets: 43-42, 10.0 games back in the NL East.
Though the team records are technically only separated by 2.5 games, Fielder's Brew-Crew is in a much more advantageous spot than Reyes' Mets as far as being postseason hopefuls. The National League Central division has been coming down to the wire in recent years, and this season isn't any different. The biggest support for the Brewers keeping in contention for that playoff spot has been Fielders recent performance on the field.
The Brewers are only one game out of the division lead behind St. Louis, and with Pujols still on the DL and Fielder streaking, Milwaukee definitely has a puncher's chance at taking home the division crown.
We turn the page to find the Mets are 10.0 games back for the lead in an extremely competitive National League East. Fueled by their 'Big 4' in the starting rotation and their potent lineup, the Philadelphia Phillies (54-32) again have a decisive edge over everyone else in the division. The Atlanta Braves (50-36) are the only other realistic contenders for the NL East while the Mets will be lucky to put together a run at a wild card berth.
I don't know about everyone else, but in my mind, an MVP award carries more weight if it's given to the most valuable player of a team that can actually stay competitive and win games. Now, we still have close to half a season to play, but at this point, it's the Fielder-led Brewers that are within striking distance for their division. The Mets, on the other hand, are one misstep away from being their division's cellar dwellers.
Point goes to Fielder here.
Stats, stats, and more stats. Baseball is nothing without it's database of statistics. Both Fielder and Reyes have been solid throughout their respective careers, but since the MVP award is given out annually, we'll focus on stats they've compiled up to this point of the current season.
Since debuting in 2005, Fielder has been the best hitter for the Brew-Crew, despite having Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks as running mates. Prince has 21 long-bombs on the season, while also batting in 69 runs, placing him third and first respectively in the NL in those categories. He also has a great .299 batting average for someone normally classified as a power hitter.
Reyes has been the only true consistent offensive threat for an underwhelming Mets team this year. He leads all of Major League Baseball with an insane .354 batting average and 15 triples. He only has three homers, but that's not why he's valuable to the teams success. Reyes has an entire offensive game that Fielder wouldn't even be able to fantasize about in his wildest dreams.
The Mets All-Star has Usain Bolt-like speed on the basepaths (2nd in MLB with 30 stolen bases) and that speed gives him exceptional range playing shortstop. Like Fielder, Reyes too has learned patience in the batter's box while progressing as a hitter. All those attributes make Reyes the best spark plug in professional baseball.
Point goes to Reyes here.
For the tiebreaker, we go to the issue of durability; or in the case of Reyes, the lack thereof.
Up until 2009, Reyes was extremely durable despite the way the Mets literally ran him ragged. However, a hamstring injury forced Reyes to cool his jets and miss the remainder of the '09 season after only 36 games.
Two years and change later, the Mets have returned to almost the exact coordinates -- the intersection of "Not again" and "Oh no!" Reyes is hurt. Those words mean even more now than they did then. For the team and for him.
He removed himself from Saturday's game against the Bronx Bombers after two innings citing tightness in his left hamstring. This injury will sideline Reyes once again, and the Metropolitans will be without their most prolific player for awhile. No matter when he plays again -- before the All-Star break is possible but inadvisable given his history and the black cloud that follows the franchise -- another betrayal by Reyes' hammy pulls at the muscle of the Mets' tenuous Wild Card aspirations.
Unlike his counterpart, Fielder has been the epitomy of durability in Milwaukee, not having missed more than five games since his first full season with the team in 2006.
MVP stands for most valuable player. Reyes and Fielder are clearly the franchise players for their respective teams, but in order to have it recognized league-wide, you have to bolster your team with consistent production.
Prince looks to be at the top of his game right now and will likely continue his stellar season while Reyes will most likely have to go on another sabotical to the disabled list to nurse that injured hammy.
Bottom line, you can't be valuable to your team if you're not playing.
Point goes to Fielder here, and your 2011 NL MVP is....Prince Fielder.
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