Not in recent memory has there been such a crowded list of players that could rightfully be considered the MVP of the American League quite like this year’s group. Between Toronto’s Jose Bautista, the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury, it’s an impressive list of hitters and pitcher (in Verlander’s case) that are having career years. Any one of them could win it outright and would deserve to in any other year. But it is A-Gonz’s teammate, Red Sox leadoff hitter and perennial Gold Glove candidate Ellsbury, who should win it, and yesterday he proved why.
In the midst of a nightmare September for the BoSox, the star centerfielder has been a model of consistency this month, and all season long. In doing so, Ellsbury has upped his game to a new and unforeseen level. In game one of yesterday’s double-header at Yankee Stadium (during which the Red Sox lost 9-2 to the home team), he hit two solo homers, upping his season total to an astounding and team-leading 30. Together with his 38 stolen bases, that made him the first player in Red Sox history to be a 30/30 man. It’s a feat no one thought possible but which now makes him a complete five-tool player and one of the best all-around players in MLB. That said, Ells saved his best swing for last.
In the 14th inning of the second game late last night, Ellsbury hit the most important homer of the season (and his third of the day!), a three-run bomb that untied the 4-4 score and led to Boston’s only victory in New York over the weekend (a 7-4 final score). His game-winning bomb yesterday could and should seal the deal in the minds of AL MVP voters that he deserves the trophy, if for no other reason than that in a season full of standout moments (including walk-off hits on consecutive nights in August), it kept Boston in the AL Wild Card lead—by one game, with only three to go in the season. The fact that he is an all-around great player now (with power numbers greater than Gonzales and David Ortiz) is another reason.
Sure, from a pure numbers standpoint, a couple of other candidates are having a great closing month too. Verlander, except for his last (and meaningless) start, is having an old-school Pedro Martinez-esque dominating season and now has a 24-5 record and 2.40 ERA, and Yankees fans may say Granderson deserves it because he has more homers, runs and RBI. But, his batting average (.266 as of Sunday night) is way lower than Ellsbury’s (.322 and fifth in the American League). Grandy only has 152 hits as well; his Boston counterpart has 208 hits (third in the AL) And, those large runs and RBI totals of Granderson’s aren’t all that controllable and are really the result of being surrounded by consistently good hitters around him in the everyday Yankees line-up, like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, etc.
Furthermore, the Yankees have more depth at the bottom of their line-up than Boston does, so the fact that Ellsbury even has 103 RBI (mostly from the leadoff spot) is truly amazing and much more impressive than the 119 Yankee runs he’s driven in so far. And as the table setter for Boston’s offense and speed demon on the bases, Ellsbury is a tad more valuable to Boston than Grandy is to the Yankees. The latter team can survive without Grandy. Boston couldn’t if it lost Ells to injury (like it did last year). Besides, should the MVP trophy really go to a hitter whose batting average is only in the mid-.260s? I don’t think so..
So let the debate continue, if you must. To me, it’s over as of last night.