Joey Votto watches one of the many moonshots he hit on the season for the NL Central division leading Reds. (Photo: Zimbio)

The American League Cy Young and MVP races are compelling, but no race has more contenders than the National League Most Valuable Player. There is Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, who is having his yearly  campaign as baseball’s most gifted player; Joey Votto, who is having an equally impressive season for the Cincinnati Reds, a team heading to the playoffs for the first time since 1995; Adrian Gonzalez, who has extraordinary power for the surprising San Diego Padres; and, finally, the two-headed monster of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado, a duo that fueled the Rockies into playoff contention before the team ran out of gas.

As I detailed in my American League MVP article, a team cannot have two MVP candidates. Why? Because if it is hard to decide who is more valuable, then it would be better of giving the award to someone who has put up similar numbers as a team’s lone force. If the Rockies battled all the way back and reached the postseason, I wouldn’t be against Carlos Gonzalez and Tulowitzki being named co-MVPs.

As it is, though, the award should come down to the trio of Pujols, Votto, and Adrian Gonzalez. All three have been very valuable for their teams, but in my mind Votto is most deserving. Pujols has 42 homers, 118 rbi’s, a .313 batting average, and a 41 percent on-base percentage: his usual numbers. He has three MVP awards putting up those statistics. He is the best in the game. But he isn’t the most valuable this particular season. St. Louis is out of playoff contention and has been for the past month.

So, leaving Pujols out of the equation, it comes down to Adrian Gonzalez and Votto. Given how poor the Padres offense is without Gonzalez in the lineup his case is a compelling one. He’s a .300 hitter, has 30-plus homers and 100-plus rbis while playing Gold Glove first base. But, Votto’s numbers are far superior, and his Reds are going to a place they haven’t been in a long time.

Votto, 27, has 37 homers, 113 rbi’s, a 42 percent on-base percentage, and, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark documents in his awards’ article, has a “.374 [batting average] with men on base, .369 with runners in scoring position, .355 in the late innings of tight games, .357 from the seventh inning on, .336 since the All-Star break and 27 homers that have either tied games, put his team ahead, brought his team within a run or broken open a one-run game.”

He has delivered when it has mattered most for Cincinnati, and that, quite simply, defines an MVP.

Honorable mention: Adrian Gonzalez, Pujols, Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez

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