After making my pick for the American League Cy Young, which was an easy decision on my part, I move on to the American League Most Valuable Player, which is a bit more difficult to choose.

Just as I believe that wins should play a minimal role in deciding the Cy Young award, an MVP should not come from a team that has other potential candidates. That erases New York Yankees Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira from the conversation. This isn’t my Boston Red Sox bias creeping in; it is logic. If Cano might not even be the best player on his team how can he get strong consideration for the MVP? The MVP has to be someone who is definitively leading his team–hence the “Most Valuable” part of the award’s title. No one can say that it is just Cano primarily propelling New York.

Jose Bautista is a very interesting case. The Toronto Blue Jays right fielder had never hit more than 16 homers in a season, nor had he driven in more than 63 prior to his ridiculous 2010 season. Currently, Bautista has 54 homers and 124 RBI on the year. That is 41 more homers and 84 more RBI than he had last year with the team. It’s hard to comprehend, but considering Toronto has the fourth most homers in MLB history this season, his sudden power is not mind-boggling.

He credits an entirely renovated swing for his impressive jump, one where he turns into the zone far quicker than during his lowly days in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Kansas City. His swing is also much flatter and his weight transfer is vastly improved, which obviously helps a hitter consistently make crisper contact. The steroids conversation shouldn’t even be brought up. Suspicion is attached, but players are randomly tested and one would be a complete dodo to chance their reputation and career with syringes this long after the steroid era.

Yet, though his accomplishments this season are remarkable, and though his team has played predominately well despite finishing fourth in the toughest division in baseball, he is not my MVP of the American League.

The MVP has to go to someone who has been most important to their team’s success. Bautista has been for the Blue Jays, but his team isn’t going to the playoffs nor have they ever been in the hunt. And, he’s only hit one homer this season—his 53rd—to the opposite field, which is bizarre. Is the 29-year-old a flash in the pan? Could the Blue Jays have won 85 games with Travis Snider getting regular playing time in right instead?

I know the Texas Rangers couldn’t have done as well as they have without Josh Hamilton; that’s for certain. Texas has always had a fairly good offense, but Hamilton has made it one of the more feared in baseball. They played in an easy division. The division was pretty much won when July turned to August. But they would have had a tougher time holding off the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim if he didn’t produce the way he did prior to getting injured in early September.

That he went down with an injury early last month, fracturing multiple ribs crashing into the center field wall, and still leads the American League in batting average at .361 and has 31 homers, 97 RBI, and a .412 on-base percentage is incredible. Entering his return to the field in tonight’s game against the Angels, he had missed 27 of 158 games. A months-worth of baseball and he is only 17 hits away from 200, has already reached the 40-double plateau, and is nearing 100 runs. He won’t reach 200 hits nor will he reach triple-digits in runs, but that he has put up those numbers—a terrific season for many who play all 162 games—while missing so much time only helps his case for the award.

It is not just coincidence that the Rangers ran away with the American League East during the five months in which Hamilton regularly appeared. And, it’s not as if players who have missed substantial time haven’t won before. In fact, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer won last year with very similar statistics, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark displayed in his article:

Enough said in arguing for a player who has been to hell and back in his life and is now among the elite in the great game of baseball.

Honorable mention: Cano, Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, and Delmon Young

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