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Scanning the MVP Candidates: Magglio Ordonez

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If Giambi continues the awesome display he's put forth the last two seasons and the Yankees win, this year's MVP race will carry as much drama as a Senate hearing on campaign finance reform. Still, there's always a chance that Giambi pulls a Danny Tartabull or that the Yankees stumble and miss the playoffs. The latter scenario would seem more likely, but in either case, other MVP candidates would surely emerge. For one, Alex Rodriguez will probably need the help of Alan Greenspan to count the numbers he'll put up this season, but he won't get any love from the voters if the Texas Rangers pitch like the New York Rangers. He's about to start only his seventh full season in the major leagues, and yet an argument can be made that Rodriguez is already the best player to never win a MVP Award. He's a stat junkie's dream. In 2001, Rodriguez had a season that, if it were a painting, it would be hung in the Louvre. Twenty years from now baseball archaeologists will sift through the Baseball Encyclopedia, come upon these Jurassic numbers — .318, 52 homers and 135 RBIs — and wail, "He didn't win the MVP?" That's what happens when your team finishes 43 games out of first place and doesn't play a meaningful game after May. Thirty percent of MVP winners did not play for a first-place team, including 16 in the past 25 years. Ideally, the award honors the player most responsible for getting his team to the postseason, but often the voters recognize a season so terrific that they aren't bound by that ideal. Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr. received such validation in 1991, even though his numbers (.323, 34, 114) for a team that finished 24 games out were only marginally better than those of Joe Carter of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays (.273, 33, 108). Carter finished fifth in the balloting. Similar waivers were made for Andre Dawson, whose '87 Chicago Cubs finished 18.5 games out; Ernie Banks of the '58 Cubs (20 games back); Triple Crown winner Joe Medwick of the '37 Cardinals (15 games back) and many others. Given the extreme probability that A-Rod's Rangers foil his plans, Giambi may get his stiffest hardware haggle from an unlikely source: The White Sox' Magglio Ordonez. First place in the AL Central could be volleyed back and forth on a daily basis this season and fans of at least three different teams will have ample opportunity to Tim Hardaway their TV sets across the living room. One of those teams figures to be the White Sox, and if the Sox are in it, than Ordonez will probably be having a big season. At this point in his career, Ordonez is the equivalent of a carbonated soft drink that's been left unattended in a freezer. He's ready to explode. He's been in Frank Thomas' massive shadow for the last three years, but his production is becoming impossible to ignore on a grand scale. Fans on the South Side can identify with Ordonez, but many people around the country wouldn't recognize him if he turned up on "Will & Grace." This may be the year that everyone stops to notice Ordonez when he arrives at the party. Over the last three years, Ordonez has averaged .307, 31 and 119. If he played in New York, those numbers would be good for Bernie Williams money — at least. Ordonez, 28, will earn $6.5 million in 2002, the first of a three-year, $29.5 million deal he signed last season. The White Sox improved their lineup with the addition of veterans Kenny Lofton and Sandy Alomar Jr., which should denote greater results for Ordonez, who is hitting .438 with four homers in the spring. And although his plate discipline goes on sporadic vacation during the season, Ordonez has developed above-average patience. His walk totals have increased each of the last three seasons and reached a career-high 70 in 2001. Ordonez is also well-rounded: a threat on the bases (25 stolen bases), a great hitter on the road (.316 over the last three years) and an outstanding right fielder — the stuff of which MVPs are made. Bryon Evje is a senior writer for E-SportsNation.com and can be reached at bevje@e-sportsnation.com. You can get exclusive news and information from Bryon and in-depth coverage on baseball by subscribing to E-SN Premium. Click here for more details.
Tagged: Orioles, White Sox, Indians, Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Cardinals, Magglio Ordonez, Alex Rodriguez

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