American League MVP

Here's the problem: the best hitter in the American league, by a significant margin, was Albert Belle. Since we know he's not the MVP, the rest of this is a little tricky. We could put a premium on defense, that would be a reason not to pick him, or we could limit ourselves to people who played for "contenders", a nebulous term in an era with few pennant races. My choice here doesn't excite me. He didn't have a great second half, he's in the middle of a great lineup which inflates his RBI stats a bit, and he's not much of a defensive player. Still, considering they were in a race all year, and that they won it by a very slight margin, Juan Gonzalez is my choice. He led the league in RBI, hit .318, had an on-base average of .366 and slugged .630, for an OPS (on base plus slugging) of .996, well short of Belle's 1.054, but as good as any of the other top contenders. The main competition seems to come from Nomar Garciaparra. The Red Sox shortstop had a terrific year, hitting .323, with 35 HR, 111 runs and 122 RBI, with a .946 OPS. Outstanding numbers for a SS east of Seattle. He committed 25 errors in 143 games, rather high compared to the other top shortstops: Derek Jeter had only 9 in 149 games, and Alex Rodriguez, not considered a terrific fielder, had 18 in 161. The fact that he missed 19 games doesn't help him and the Red Sox played without much pressure all year, they weren't close to the Yankees and no one was close to them. My ballot:
  1. Gonzalez -- hit .318, drove 157 runs, hit 45 HR, 50 doubles, .996 OPS
  2. Garciaparra -- only played 143 games, still drove in 122 and hit 35 HR
  3. Derek Jeter -- scored 127 runs, only 9 errors, the heart and soul of the Yankees
  4. Ivan Rodriguez -- Pudge had a terrific year, hit .321 with 40 doubles and 21 HR, caught 140 games in Texas heat, cutting off the opposition basestealing while stealing 9-9 himself
  5. Ken Griffey, Jr. -- he hit 56 HR, drove in 146 runs, won a Gold Glove, Mariners collapse wasn't his fault
  6. Alex Rodriguez -- .310,123 runs, 124 RBI, 42 HR, 46 SB and he's a shortstop…what a remarkable season, like Griffey he played 161 games, and like Junior, it wasn't his fault
  7. Roger Clemens -- won the Cy Young award, 20 wins, 15 in a row to bring his team back from the dead and create the illusion of a wild card race…won the pitching Triple Crown
  8. Albert Belle -- may not have helped his team accomplish anything, but he was the best hitter in the league…hit .328, 113 runs, 152 RBI, 49 homers, 99 extra base hits, played 163 games and had the best OPS in the league, 1.054…he may be a jerk, but he shows up and does his job remarkably well
  9. Manny Ramirez -- yet another top slugger, hit 45 HR, drove in 145, only hit .294, his OPS was a solid .976…would be higher if his offense had meant anything, but Jim Thome was the Indians MVP until he got hurt, and most of Manny's damage came after the race was over
  10. Mo Vaughn -- hit .337 with 115 RBI and 40 HR…played 154 games, which is why he's on the list ahead of Bernie Williams, probably the Yankees best player, but he only played 128 games, not enough for consideration
Just missed: Tom Gordon, Pedro Martinez, Rafael Palmiero, Carlos Delgado

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