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More on the MVPs

Phil Pepe defends the Justin Morneau selection, with the standard reasoning:

I believe fervently in the literal definition of the term "Most Valuable." The award was designed to go not to the year's outstanding player, but rather to the one most instrumental in the success of his team (the fact that both Morneau's Twins and Jeter's Yankees failed to get past the first round of the playoffs had no bearing on the vote; ballots had to be submitted before the first pitch of the first playoff game). It is rare that a player's value is so clearly apparent as Morneau's was this season. Just look at the numbers:

On June 7, the Twins were 25-33, 11 ½ games behind the Tigers in the AL Central and Morneau was batting .236 with 11 home runs and 38 runs batted in. From June 8 to the end of the season, Morneau batted .362 with 23 homers and 92 RBIs, and the Twins went 71-33, passed the Tigers and won the division championship. That, to me, is the definition of a Most Valuable Player. How much clearer can it be?

Of course, from June 8 on, Johan Santana went 14-2, pitching 150 innings, with a 2.52 ERA. From June 8 on, Torii Hunter hit 22 homers and played excellent defense in centerfield. From June 8 on, Joe Mauer hit about .330 and was great defensively behind the plate. See how easy the "from June 8 on" game is?

And of course, it is ridiculous to pick an arbitrary point of the season, say that everything before that date doesn't count, and select a winner based on who performs the best from that point on. It is a cliche, but a win in April counts just as much as a win in September, and Morneau's lousy play up to that point is part of the reason that the Twins had to make up so much ground. To say he's most valuable because he started hitting the same time the Twins started winning is to engage in a post hoc fallacy that cheapens the award.

Of course, Pepe's argument is more legitimate than Stephen A. Smith's claim that Ryan Howard deserved the MVP because he's African-American:

The result of the voting for the National League's most valuable player is expected tomorrow and, with apologies and respect to Albert Pujols, the vote shouldn't even be close. Of course, there are naysayers who'll spew otherwise, vociferously pointing out how the league's 2005 MVP still had 49 homers with a better batting average and slugging percentage than Howard - despite missing 15 games in June because of an injury.

They'll be the same people I accuse of not paying much attention last season.

You don't just look at the stat sheets or the box scores to measure the impact of Ryan Howard. You view the landscape of MLB then ask yourself, "Where did these fans come from?"

Who are all these people who weren't watching the Phillies before? This franchise hasn't made the postseason since 1993, so why on earth are stadiums packed whenever they come to town?

Where did all the African American fans come from? Why haven't we heard about steroids? Mark McGwire? Barry Bonds?

The answer would be because there's no need. Because Howard is the real deal. He's the modern-day athlete major-league baseball was starving for.

"I care about winning," Howard told me several weeks ago, right before he left town to smack homers all over Japan. "I care about winning and doing it the way it's supposed to be done. Everyone wants to get paid, to be successful. But sometimes it's as much about how you do things as well as what you do. I know that. I'm aware of that."

The same can be said of Pujols, who is as big-time as they come. The St. Louis Cardinals would not have sniffed the postseason without him, let alone captured a World Series championship. But the reality is the talent that is Pujols, while fairly unique, is a dime a dozen in the laundry list of Latin talent that has invaded baseball.

When you think of Pujols, you also think of Manny Ramirez and David "Big Papi" Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez. They play great baseball, but that's it.

In Howard's case, not only has he performed, he's single-handedly transformed the focus of a sport, forcing baseball - and possibly the rest of us - to take a closer look at potential African American prospects perhaps through something more than Reviving Baseball in the Inner City (RBI) programs.

Held back - some might say hidden - by the Phillies for far too long, Howard has burst onto the scene in less than two years in the majors. And he's done it with a Magic Johnson-like smile despite the Phillies' unwillingness to show him some money and his being surrounded by limited, wannabe talent.

The Phillies are looking for help, we hear, supposedly in the form of a power hitter like Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee to protect Howard. We'll wait to see if that actually happens. We'll also wait to see if they acquire a quality starting pitcher and some bullpen help for Tom Gordon.

Meanwhile, we'll pray they get rid of Pat Burrell and his $27 million over the next two years for a leftfielder who actually looks interested in playing 150 to 162 games a year.

So there you go...Howard deserves the MVP instead of Pujols because he's black, and Pujols is Hispanic. Oh, and Howard seemingly -- from what Smith says -- had to fight past the Phillies' desire to keep him from succeeding.