With little more than a month left of the regular season, not only are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees batting for a division crown, but also an MVP trophy in a race between three players.
It’s a race that is easily similar to the last Red Sox, Yankees race when Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz battled for the hardware. That race was too close to call from the get-go, some making the argument that Rodriguez makes more of an impact because he plays the field while Ortiz gained support through clutch hits.
This season there are three worthy candidates to win the award, two of them who play 81 of their games in Fenway Park and one of them who resides in New York. A strong argument can be made for each player, but in the end there is one that does stand out among the rest.
Jacoby Ellsbury, a player who at one time seemed so lost at the plate, has developed into an All-Star caliber player. The 27-year-old had been known as a speedster, one that continually slapped at the ball hoping to find a hole.
Once on base, pitchers paid close attention to the player who stole 70 bases only two seasons ago, except this season they have more to worry about from Ellsbury. He already had most of the tools to be a great center fielder: speed, hits for average and rarely struck out, but one aspect eluded him — power.
However, he has proved this season that all he needed was time. Now entering his prime, Ellsbury is in the midst of a career-season, one that has seen him more than double his highest home run output to 23 home runs.
As the table-setter for one of the best offensive teams in baseball, Ellsbury is very valuable to the Sox, utilizing his speed to get into scoring position for the traditional power hitters. However, the point can be made that the Sox did not need his production to be where they are today.
Residing in one of the most hallowed positions in all of Yankees history, Curtis Granderson continued his hot-hitting from the end of last season into this year, showing that maybe the Yankees did receive the better part of the deal.
While Granderson struggled for much of his time in New York during his debut season with the club, Austin Jackson, the man sent to the Tigers in the trade, showed tremendous promise. It seemed one-sided in favor of the Tigers until Granderson discovered his power stroke, one that has helped make the Yankees lineup that much more potent and deeper.
The 30-year-old has set a career-high this season with 36 home runs along with 103 RBI’s and over 100 runs scored. Single-handedly, he makes a huge difference to the Yankees lineup because of his deadly combination of power and speed.
However is he the clear-cut choice for the American League MVP award? A .277 batting average and 137 strikeouts certainly does not help make for a compelling case, especially when faced up against Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox.
The A.L. All-Star first baseman came over to the Red Sox during the off-season and has escaped from obscurity that has hampered his superstardom. The Red Sox tried many times to pry him away from the San Diego Padres for a few reasons: his Gold-Glove caliber play at first, unassuming, business-like attitude and a swing meant for Fenway Park.
Gonzalez, a natural through-the-ball hitter, has pelted the Green Monster to a tune of a .345 batting average and has also blast 23 home runs. During the early days of April when the team struggled to produce any semblance of offense, it was A-Gon who supplied the pop.
He has been nothing but consistent all season, helping save runs on defense, supply pop on offense and be a team-leader in the clubhouse. The Red Sox brought him in to help win a championship and size him up for a ring.
Over the last month, A-Gon can help lead the Sox into the postseason while solidifying his position as the American League’s MVP.
Ryan Lazo is a Senior Writer for BaseballDigest.com. He can be reached at RMLazo13@gmail.com, followed on Twitter @RMLazo13 and read his blog Artificially Enhanced.