Pujols' third MVP season could be his finest
Big news Tuesday in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting.
Hanley Ramirez won.
As in, he finished second — the highest place available to mere mortals.
Albert Pujols, of course, was the NL MVP in 2009. Just like he was in 2008. Just like he was in 2005. I suspect he will continue winning the award, with some regularity, until his bat slows or he takes leave of St. Louis to navigate The Other League.
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Pujols was a unanimous choice this time, as he should have been. He was first on 32 of 32 ballots. The NL boasts some terrific young hitters, but they weren't in shouting range of the Cardinals' first baseman this year.
Imagine how Ramirez must feel. While playing perhaps the second-most demanding position on the diamond, he won the batting title with a .342 average. His 106 RBIs were the most of any shortstop in the majors. He hit 24 home runs. He stole 27 bases. He dropped his error total from 22 to 10.
It wasn't enough. Ramirez was a complete player this year. Pujols was simply more complete than anyone else.
Pujols led the league with 47 home runs — and also topped the runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage categories. The 135 RBIs were the second-most of his career.
He acknowledged Tuesday that this might have been the "most consistent year" of his career, which is a little like saying, "This is the coolest Ferrari I've ever had."
"If Hanley were in another league, he might get a few MVPs," said Tommy Hutton, the former big leaguer and current Marlins television analyst. "But it's going to be tough, if they're both in the same league.
"Maybe someday Hanley will have a terrific season and Albert will have an off year ... like .310 with 28 homers."
Oh, it's not as if Pujols wins every year. Ryan Howard (2006) and Jimmy Rollins (2007) have received the award since Pujols claimed it for the first time. But we're now reaching the stage where big hitters across the NL report to spring training knowing that the MVP is Pujols' to lose.