Tag:Mets
Posted on: September 13, 2011 3:36 pm
 

MLB 'Man of the Year' finalists released

By Matt Snyder

The six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in Major League Baseball were revealed Wednesday. The award is given to a player "whose on-field and off-field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement by displaying as much passion to give back to others as he shows between the lines on the baseball diamond."

Here are the six finalists (via DenverPost.com):
Paul Konerko, White Sox
David Robertson, Yankees
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
David Wright, Mets
Michael Young, Rangers

The award is named after Marvin Miller, who was the executive director of the MLB Players Association from 1966 to 1982. Under his watch, it grew into one of the strongest unions in the country. The award is a "player's choice" award, which means what it says: The players vote on it.

The award started in 1997. Young won the award in 2008, so he could join John Smoltz and Jim Thome as the only two-time winners. Brandon Inge of the Tigers won last season -- the second consecutive Tigers' player to win it, as Curtis Granderson won in 2009, his last season in Detroit. Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols are the other active players who have won the award before.

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Posted on: September 13, 2011 9:59 am
Edited on: September 13, 2011 10:13 am
 

Pepper: More to the Mets' 9/11 hats story?



By Matt Snyder


One big storyline that emerged in baseball Sunday night was the Mets not being allowed to wear first responder (NYPD, FDNY, etc.) hats during the national telecast on ESPN. They did wear them in pre-game festivities -- as seen above on Ronny Paulino -- but not during the actual game, per MLB rule.

It turns out, according to a report from the New York Post Tuesday, there may be more than initially met the eye. Reportedly, commissioner Bud Selig called the Mets Sunday night and was "irate" that the team threw Major League Baseball under the proverbial bus.

"[Selig] got embarrassed by it," a Mets official said (New York Post). "The game got moved into prime time because of 9/11, and [MLB] ended up getting embarrassed."

The report also notes that Joe Torre -- who was named as the person who ordered the Mets to not wear the hats -- said there was a league-wide memo sent out but nothing specifically about the Mets, nor was the message anything "heavy-handed."

And then there's this (New York Post):
But another source said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon was "back and forth" with the commissioner's office on the matter until the proverbial 11th hour, when it was decided the Mets, on the hook for a $25 million loan from MLB, shouldn't risk the wrath of Selig.
So, if all this is true, the Mets basically forced their players to comply and let the commissioner's office take the blame in nefarious manner -- even though they didn't want to risk the wrath of Selig?

It's hard to know who to trust here. It seems like there's blame to be placed in both camps, but the bottom line is the players should have just been allowed to wear the special hats. It's a hat. Don't give me slippery slope on this. It's the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 in New York City. That's a special circumstance. Whether it's Wilpon, Selig, Torre or any combination of the three, someone dropped the ball.

"Moneyball" venom: There's a story in the LA Times about the "Moneyball" movie coming out and how polarizing it is. One telling quote is how, after winning the World Series last season, Giants executive Tony Siegle said "so much for Moneyball" in celebration. Later in the article, Siegle cops to having never read the book. And here's the crux of my criticism with those criticizing "Moneyball." The book wasn't saying A's general manager Billy Beane invented sabermetrics (he didn't) or that he was reinventing the wheel (he wasn't). It was just a story about a GM trying to find a creative way to compete with a less than competitive payroll. And he did for several years. It doesn't claim he invented on-base percentage or that he's a genius. It's a story. A good one. Maybe read the book before you complain about it. Nothing drives me more crazy than hearing something like "Moneyball doesn't work." Moneyball is a book -- and now a movie -- not a strategy.

More McCourt hate? Click here and check out the picture. Notice the MLB produced a poster talking about a special promotion where all the teams are giving money to Stand Up To Cancer. Also note the asterisk and specific mention the Dodgers aren't giving to the charity. The Sons of Steve Garvey notes that the Dodgers are giving proceeds to their own cancer charity (ThinkCure) and this could just be another way of Selig's office to sleight McCourt's administration.

More Rays' financial woes: It's no secret the Rays have money troubles, despite a stellar on-field product for the past handful of seasons. Payroll was cut after last season and several guys who had previously been key pieces were either traded or walked via free agency. Still, things are tighter than ever. " ... we’ve clearly fallen short on our financial projections," principle owner Stuart Sternburg said (TampaBay.com). "We have to make some projections but I could not have projected our attendance would be down what it was. I don't think anybody would have thought that either. ... Nothing positive happened financially this year. We were last (in attendance going into the weekend). I hadn't even realized that. I didn't forecast last."

Berkman's leverage: Outfielder Lance Berkman has enjoyed a career renaissance with the Cardinals this season and reports have indicated he wants to stay put. In fact, several reports from the St. Louis area said the Cardinals didn't trade Berkman when he cleared waivers in the last week of August because they feared that would prevent them from retaining him. So it seemed like a pretty sure thing he'd stay put. Not so fast, tweets Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss says it might not be a sure thing and that Berkman has leverage. Remember also, the Cardinals' payroll is going to be tight if they retain free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols.

'Man in White' travels to Minnesota? One of my favorite storylines of the season has been mocking those who really believe Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays are aided by a rogue sign stealer in Toronto. So, of course, since that story broke I make it a point to pass along whenever the Jays either don't hit well at home or explode on the road. And check this one out, courtesy of The Hardball Times: Bautista has seven career home runs in 34 plate appearances in Minnesota's Target Field. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Nick Punto and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have combined for 1,683 plate appearances in the Twins' new home. And they've combined for six home runs. Amazing. At his pace in that number of plate appearances, Bautista would hit 347 home runs.

Rangers staying in house: Some rumors have indicated the Rangers might be in on the Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder sweepstakes, but instead the Rangers are reportedly going to stick with Mitch Moreland at first base (MLB.com). It makes at least some sense. They'd be better served shoring up pitching -- All-Star starting pitcher C.J. Wilson is a free agent, too -- than worrying about beefing up an already potent offense. Plus, Moreland is only 26, really cheap and under team control for a while. If he further develops his power stroke (16 home runs and 21 doubles this year), he'll end up being a bargain.

No safety helmets for Philly: Despite second baseman Chase Utley suffering a concussion from being hit in the helmet by a pitch, the Phillies players are still declining to use a new, safer helmet model (Philly.com).

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 12:49 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Fister continues to impress



By Matt Snyder


Doug Fister, Tigers. When you hear people talking about teams not wanting to face the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs because you don't wanna see Justin Verlander twice in a short series, do not forget the Tigers now have a very formidable No. 2. Fister was brilliant again Sunday in a 2-1 Tigers win over the Twins, allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings. Since coming over in a trade from the Mariners in July, Fister is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Tigers now have a better record than the Rangers and are five games behind the Yankees for the top seed in the AL.

Drew Pomeranz, Rockies. I wonder how long before the Indians want a mulligan on that Ubaldo Jimenez trade deadline deal? Pomeranz was one of the pieces the Rockies got back and the 21-year-old lefty dazzled in his major-league debut Sunday. He needed just 63 pitches to get through five shutout innings against the Reds, picking up the victory. He gave up just two hits and two walks.

Luis Valbuena, Indians. In the past two seasons, before Sunday, Valbuena was hitting .188 with two home runs in 345 plate appearances. So it was quite shocking to see the light-hitting middle infielder knock the ball around the yard Sunday. He went 3-for-5 with a home run and two runs scored in a 7-3 win over the White Sox.



Jon Lester, Red Sox. The Red Sox's starting rotation is in shambles, but Lester should have been the one cog -- with Josh Beckett injured -- that could be counted upon. Instead, he could only get through four innings, due to a massive pitch count, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks. The Red Sox lost 9-1, and saw their lead in the Wild Card race shrink to 3 1/2.

Tim Hudson, Braves. Like the Red Sox, the Braves are reeling and needed a big start. With Hudson taking the hill, it seemed like a good time -- considering the Braves had won six of Hudson's past seven starts. Instead, Hudson was battered for six runs and eight hits in six innings and the Braves were swept by the Cardinals. Even worse, a once-commanding Wild Card lead has shrunk to 4 1/2 games.

Major League Baseball. I usually never complain about the rigidity of professional sports leagues when it comes to rules on uniforms because of the slippery slope principle, but not allowing the Mets to wear the NYPD, FDNY and PAPD hats for Sunday night's game was a farce. You can make one exception without being worried about the precedent set.

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Posted on: September 11, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 12:36 am
 

MLB prevents Mets from wearing 9/11 hats

By Matt Snyder

The New York Mets will host the Chicago Cubs for the Sunday night game in New York on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. In commemoration of so many brave souls who either gave their lives or put their lives on the line to try and save other Americans, the Mets have an assortment of NYPD, FDNY and PAPD (that one is Port Authority PD) hats to honor the service men and women. They were going to wear them during the game, which will be seen on ESPN.

Instead, Major League Baseball intervened. The Mets released the following statement:

“MLB set a league-wide policy as it related to caps and uniforms for September 11 and we followed the guidelines.”

There was reportedly some discussion by the Mets players to just ignore the mandate and wear the hats anyway, but they ended up calling off the idea.

"As much as we would like to as a team," player representative Josh Thole said (Ledger_NYMets on Twitter). "MLB is coming down really hard on it."

I don't think there's really much more to say than it's too bad that the MLB can't make an exception here -- especially considering all those stars and stripes hats teams wear on the 4th of July and Memorial Day.

UPDATE: The decision was apparently made by MLB Vice President Joe Torre, who was the Yankees manager on 9/11. He said he just wanted teams to be "consistent" and in this situation, "certainly it's not a lack of respect." (David Lennon via Twitter)

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 11, 2011 12:17 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Sanchez dazzles in one-hitter

Sanchez

By Evan Brunell


Anibal Sanchez, Marlins: Sanchez twirled a gem, throwing a complete-game shutout and allowing just one hit and three walks while punching out 11. All in all, it was a stellar performance for the oft-injured right-hander, whose ERA dipped to 3.64. Sanchez's talent is undeniable -- the issue comes with actually staying on the field. Given he's done that for two straight years so far, it's time to look at Sanchez as a legitimate pitcher and one who could be in line for a big payday as a free agent after 2012.

Chris Heisey, Reds: In a losing effort, Heisey cranked two home runs with a solo blast in the third before beginning a run of three consecutive blasts by Cincy in the fifth. It's the third time this season Heisey has tallied two homers in a game, and went 3-for-4 with three runs scored in his latest such game. Now batting .251/.306/.451, Heisey is putting himself in great shape to start next season as the left fielder, assuming Yonder Alonso doesn't stay at the position.
 
Alex Rios, White Sox: Rios delivered a walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning to dip Cleveland below .500. It was the only hit of the game for Rios, but it was a fantastic one. Unfortunately, it's going to be the highlight of the season by far for the center fielder, who is rocking a .222/.258/.332 line. It was Rios' first career slam, and Chicago's first walkoff homer of the year. Thanks to his contract, though, Rios should get every chance to win and hold down the center field job next season.



David Wright, Mets:  Bobby Parnell wasn't exactly great either, and Wright did contribute two hits, but he also made two errors in the game. The second error came in the ninth when the Cubs rallied off of Parnell. Wright's error allowed the first batter of the inning, Geovany Soto, to reach base and it was all downhill from there as New York committed a total of four errors. That's the most the team has committed since last August. "It's no one person's fault that you lose a game," Wright told the Associated Press. "Collectively there's a lot of things we could have done to win this game."

Yoshinori Tateyama, Rangers:  It was a brutal night for Tateyama, who gave up a pinch-hit grand slam to Scott Sizemore after entering the game with the bases loaded. He followed that up by allowing a RBI double before being lifted from the game with an ERA all the way up to 4.71. The last batter the righty faced, which came on Sept. 3, also hammered a grand slam, meaning Tateyama gave up back-to-back slams. His ERA was 3.46 prior to these two slams, and 2.37 on Aug. 23 as he continues to spectacularly implode down the stretch.

Bronson Arroyo, Reds: The nightmare season for Arroyo continues, as he was lit up for six earned runs over just one inning, running his ERA to 5.28, which would be his worst mark since his rookie season of 2000, when he posted a 6.40 ERA in 71 2/3 innings. The following year is his only other time with an ERA north of 5.00. It's a remarkable turn of events for Arroyo, who had been one of the most durable pitchers in his time with Cincy, racking up six straight seasons (the first in Boston) of 200 innings pitched. Arroyo now has allowed 40 homers on the year, tying him with Eric Milton for the franchise record. The MLB record is held by Bert Blyleven, with 50 bombs allowed.

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 3:51 pm
 

'No plans' for Santana to pitch for Mets in 2011

Johan SantanaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Johan Santana allowed two hits and an unearned run for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats in the South Atlantic League playoffs on Friday, but Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters that there are "no plans" for the left-hander to return to the Mets in the final month of the 2011 season.

"The one thing we don't want to do is take a big step backward," Collins said (MLB.com). "I think the process that they've set down is going to work, and Johan's bought into it. Right now, we have no plans to see him here."

The Sand Gnats won their game on Friday to push the South Atlantic League Division Championship Series to a decisive third game on Saturday. If Savannah defeats Augusta in that game, Santana could pitch in the championship series. Another of the Mets' Class A teams, St. Lucie, is currently in the Florida State League Championship Series, but is not scheduled to play past Tuesday, Sept. 13, which wouldn't be enough for Santana to return after four day's rest. If the Sand Gnats don't have another game, Santana will likely return to New York and throw a simulated game at Citi Field.

"I'm in a rehab mode. I'm still not on a regular season mode," Santana said after Friday's game (SandGnats.com). "The next couple of days are gonna be important, once I throw my bullpen and see what they want me to do, whether it's in the big leagues, in the minor leagues, in instructional leagues or whatever it is -- we'll be ready for it as long as we find ways to perform and get strength back."

Santana threw 39 pitches on Friday, striking out one and walking one. 

"I actually threw some sliders that had some good rotation and that's what you're looking for: to just it go," Santana said. "And again, the more times you go out there, the more times you pitch, the stronger you're going to get. We are in a situation right now, where we are limited with games so we have to make some adjustments and have to throw some innings and that's what we're looking for."

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: September 8, 2011 10:38 am
 

Pepper: Marlins' new home could bring makeover



By Matt Snyder


While it certainly doesn't necessarily mean on-field success, the Florida Marlins are about to finally have their own home. After sharing a park with the NFL's Miami Dolphins since first taking the field in 1993, the Marlins will begin 2012 with a baseball-only facility in Miami. Wednesday, local media were given a tour of the facility and the Marlins took the opportunity to sing their own praises.

"This will be the first ballpark to come in on budget and on time in a long, long time," team President David Samson said (Sun-Sentinel.com). "There will not be overruns in this building. This building will come in at the $515 million mark, not one dollar over budget, [and] not one thing taken out of the building. As a matter of fact, we have been able to add things because the workers have been so efficient and it has been built so well."

Samson also noted that he's personally sat in every single seat and went with the proverbial "there's not a bad seat in the house" sentiment.

So the Marlins' fans will finally have a place that seems like a real home instead of some rental where a baseball game seems foreign and unwelcome. Attendance will surely increase (the Marlins average less than 19,000 fans per game this year -- and that's paid, not how many actually show up), but what about the problem that has plagued the Marlins for years: Payroll?

"I know it will be at levels previously unseen," Samson said (Sun-Sentinel.com).

Interesting.

The time might be now to start ramping up the baseball excitement, south Florida.

Real life 'Wild Thing:' If you like baseball and don't love Charlie Sheen's character -- Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn -- in "Major League," well, you might have as many screws loose as Sheen. In the movie, Vaughn earned the nickname after loading the bases with walks on 12 straight pitches and then later set a record for wild pitches in an inning. Embattled Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn't do it in an inning, but he has now joined rare company with his wild pitches. With three Wednesday, he became the first pitcher since 1919 to have eight games with at least three wild pitches (Baseball-Reference blog).

A better Johan? Mets ace Johan Santana has been sidelined all season after having a surgical procedure in 2010. But he's getting closer and closer to possibly seeing some relief work this September, just to get him back on the mound for an inning or two. And get this: Mets' pitching coach Dan Warthen said Santana's stuff is better right now than it was last season (when he had a 2.98 ERA in 199 innings). "Better velocity," Warthen said (NYDailyNews.com). "The arm was in the same slot each and every time. He wasn't searching for a place that didn't hurt."

Emotional season: Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos came to America in 2004 to chase his dream of playing Major League Baseball. But through the long visa process, his family had never been able to get here to see him play in person ... until this season. His parents recently secured a 10-year visa and finally got to see their son play a big-league game in person this homestand (Washington Times).

Rock and a hard place: "Moneyball" is coming to theaters soon, as I'm sure most of us have seen the previews during commercial breaks on TV by now. For those uninformed, it's a film adaptation of the book about A's general manager Billy Beane trying to build a team without the resources of a large-market club (or even a middle-market one). Beane hasn't really said anything about it, and Wednesday he explained why: "The hard thing for me has been figuring out how to walk this fine line," Beane said (Mercurynews.com). "If I embrace all this movie stuff, it looks like I'm really digging it. But if I put my hand up and say, 'No,' I look like I'm distancing myself from it. There's no playbook for this."

Old Style at Wrigley: Pabst brewing company nearly nixed a deal with Wrigley Field, where Cubs fans have been consuming Old Style beer since 1950, but tradition won out -- as the contract was extended through 2013. As a Cubs fan I can tell you that it's tradition to buy one and suck it down each time you attend a game -- even if it tastes like crap (it kind of does). (Chicago Breaking Sports)

Milwaukee loves 'Tony Plush:" Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan has become an unlikely popular player this season, and the T-shirt depicting his alter-ego -- "Tony Plush" -- outsells all other Brewers' T-shirts three-fold (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). I wonder if Chris Carpenter wants one (click here if you don't get it)? I kid, but it would at the very least be a funny prank for a teammate to get him one.

Wild beats Man: A squirrel broke into the Indians' bullpen Wednesday night and closer Chris Perez attempted to capture it with his jacket. He lost, as the squirrel ran up the bullpen wall and jumped into the center-field bushes (Detroit Free-Press).

Happy Anniversary: On this day 25 years ago, Rafael Palmeiro made his major-league debut (Hardball Times). He'd go on to accumulate 3,020 hits, 569 home runs, nearly 2,000 RBI, a Gold Glove in a season when he only played 28 games in the field and one embarrassing display in front of Congress that has now been immortalized by Larry David.

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Posted on: September 7, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 1:06 am
 

Sizing up the NL MVP contenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Tonight: the NL MVP.

Lacking perhaps the sizzle or controversy of the American League MVP race, the National League MVP race could be just as interesting. While there's plenty of buzz in the AL about whether a pitcher should win the MVP, the NL question of the MVP status quo may be about a member of a losing team taking the game's top honor. While the contending teams have some worthy candidates, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, the Reds' Joey Votto and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen all have compelling arguments to be included even if their teams are well out of the race.

In alphabetical order, here are the 10 candidates that figure to appear on many of ballots:

Ryan Braun, Brewers: Braun leads the league in batting average (.335), slugging percentage (.595), OPS (.999) and runs scored (96), he's also in the top five in RBI (95) and top ten in homers (27) -- and he's doing it for a team that will be headed to the playoffs. Last season Joey Votto beat Albert Pujols convincingly on the MVP ballots (31 first-place votes out of 32), if not so convincingly on the stat sheet. The two were close to even in their offensive stats, with Votto's team winning the division title perhaps giving him the edge in the very vague category of "value." The Brewers' record could be Braun's trump card on many ballots.

Roy Halladay, Phillies: Widely considered the best pitcher in the National League, if not baseball, Halladay is having another stellar season with a 16-5 record and a 2.49 ERA. However, the pitcher for MVP argument is being made with Justin Verlander, not Halladay. While Halladay may be the best pitcher in the National League and could appear near the bottom of several ballots (he does lead the NL in pitcher WAR, 6.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com), but it will take a clear-cut best pitcher in the league to win the MVP. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is making a late push for Cy Young with a 17-5 record and 2.45 ERA) and Cliff Lee may be having the best season of any Phillies' starter.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Going into Tuesday night's game, Kemp was third in batting average (.320), tied for second in home runs (32) and third in RBI (106), giving him a shot at becoming the National League's first triple crown winner since Joe Medwick did it in 1937. The knock on Kemp will certainly be his team's 68-72 record and a season in Los Angeles much better remembered for the drama off the field than anything done on it.

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: At the All-Star break, this would have been a popular pick, but since then, the Pirates have faded and the star around Pittsburgh's center fielder has dimmed. But McCutchen is still having a fabulous year, cementing himself as one of the game's emerging stars. His stats have taken a dip, hitting .269/.372/.464 with 20 homers and 81 RBI to go along with 20 stolen bases. According to FanGraphs.com, he's seventh among position players in WAR, but much of his value comes from his defense. McCutchen won't win the MVP and won't finish in the top five, but he may get some votes based on his all-around game and the Pirates' impressive start.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals: You can't talk National League MVP and not bring up Albert Pujols, can you? Not even this year -- when so many counted him out at the beginning of the year and others thought he'd miss a good chunk of time with a broken bone -- can you leave out the three-time winner. He's bounced back from an awful start to hit .295/.367/.553 and lead the league in homers (34). Pujols won't win, not just because he failed to live up to the expectations he's set for himself, but also because the Cardinals have faded in the seasons last months once again.

Jose Reyes, Mets: Reyes' reward will likely come after the November announcement of the MVP and be in the form of a huge contract. A front-runner for the award for much of the season, hamstring injuries have hampered the Mets' shortstop, limiting him to 105 games. He's fallen behind Braun in the batting title race, but is still putting up a very good .332/.371/.493 line with five homers, 37 RBI and 35 stolen bases. 

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: The Rockies have seriously underachieved, but not Tulowitzki, who is hitting .304/.376/.550 with 29 homers and 100 RBI while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. It seems like a matter of time before Tulowitzki wins an MVP (or two), but it won't be this year. Colorado's collapse was too great and while his offensive numbers are great, they aren't so much better than any other category that he's going to vault to the top of many ballots. He may be the best all-around player in the game (especially considering his position), but won't be the MVP.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: It looks like the Diamondbacks are going to run away with the NL West and their best (and perhaps only recognizable player) is Upton, the 24-year-old center fielder. Upton is hitting .296/.378/.540 with 27 homers, 82 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He's having a fantastic season and has a very bright future. That said, in what was the most important month of the season and one that saw Arizona take control of the NL West, Upton maybe his worst month of the season, hitting .260/.342/.481.

Shane Victorino, Phillies: Overshadowed by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and even Jayson Werth in previous years, Victorino has been outstanding in 2011. He's hitting .303/.380/.529 with 15 homers and 56 RBI, while scoring 84 runs. He's won three straight Gold Gloves in center field and has been a constant for the Phillies over the years. However, on a team built around its stud pitchers, a position player may get overlooked for MVP. He finished 18th in 2009, but look for a top 10 finish this season as respect grows for one of the game's most unsung stars.

Joey Votto, Reds: Last year's winner won't repeat, but he's again having another great season, hitting .316/.428/.536, leading the National League in on-base percentage and third in OPS. He's also doing it without Scott Rolen's protection behind him. Rolen has been injured much of the season, missing 76 of the team's 141 games and his play suffering in the 65 games he has played. That's allowed pitchers to pitch around Votto, who leads the National League in walks (100) and the majors in Win Probability Added (6.9). His numbers may not quite be where they were a year ago, but he's done nothing to suggest he's not the best first baseman in the league -- and that's some pretty heady competition.

So all in all, who is the best candidate to win the MVP? We'll answer that later in the year, but you can have your say in the comments. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com