Monday, November 17, 2008

Pujols Wins 2nd NL MVP

St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols has won his second NL MVP easily beating out Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.

In 2008, Pujols hit .357 with 37 home runs and 116 runs batted in. Pujols finished second in the NL batting race behind Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves. His HR and RBI totals were 4th in the NL.

While Howard had better production than Pujols he only hit .251. No National Leaguer has won an MVP with a batting average lower than .267. Marty Marion, another Cardinals legend, pulled off that feat when he won the NL MVP for the 1944 Cardinals who went on to win the World Series against their crosstown rivals the St. Louis Browns. Marion won his MVP because of his defensive prowess at shortstop not because of his offense as many of his teammates put up better offensive numbers.

Pujols won his previous NL MVP in 2005. Since bursting onto the MLB scene in 2001, Pujols has collected more than 1500 hits, slugged more than 300 homeruns and has never failed to drive in 100 runs in a season. Pujols doesn't strike out very often whiffing only 54 times in 665 plate appearances this year. When Pujols won NL Rookie of the Year in 2001 he struck out 93 times. He has never reached 70 strikeouts in any season since.

While many argue that New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is the best overall player in MLB there is a case to be made for Pujols. In addition to his 2 NL MVPs, Pujols was runner up in the MVP balloting on three occasions. He finished behind Barry Bonds in 2002 and 2003 and Ryan Howard in 2006. Pujols has been in the top 5 in MVP balloting every year of his career except last season when he finished ninth.

Pujols has also played in two World Series with the Cardinals in 2004 and 2006. Pujols won the NLCS MVP in 2004 although his Cardinals would be swept by the Boston Red Sox in a historical World Series. Pujols earned a World Series ring in 2006 with the Cardinals when they beat the Detroit Tigers in five games.

What is even more remarkable about his season is that he spent time on the DL with an injured left calf. Pujols has also had right elbow trouble since 2003 and had surgery on the elbow last month. He is expected to be ready for spring training in 2009. Pujols turns 29 in January. His elbow is the only thing that might keep him from winning more MVPs, hitting more homeruns than Bonds and possibly A-Rod and perhaps even driving in more runs than Hank Aaron.

Off the field, Pujols is known for his philanthropy. The Pujols Family Foundation assists families of children with Down syndrome. Pujols adopted daughter, Isabella, was born with this condition. Pujols received the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award for his work in this area.
Perhaps the Pujols and the Palins will one day join forces.

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