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Pujols is the best NL player, period

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: This column by Yahoo! Sports national columnist Tim Brown made the case Sept. 22 that Albert Pujols deserved to be National League Most Valuable Player. Pujols was honored Nov. 24.

Sometimes, amid the noise and the statistical warfare, the best player is the most valuable player, no more complicated than that.

Sometimes the guy who looks like the best player … is. The eyes agree with the bottom line. The pitchers say he is the best hitter. The players say he is the best teammate. The manager says he's never had one quite like him.

He hits and his team wins, and wins even more than most predicted it would. He's the most productive hitter in the National League and the pivotal player for the Central Division champion, and therefore Albert Pujols(notes) of the St. Louis Cardinals is the National League MVP for the second time in two seasons and third time overall.

Simple.

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Albert Pujols.
( Morry Gash/Associated Press)

Barry Bonds(notes) won seven MVPs, presumably some of them on his own. Pujols would join eight others with three, including Alex Rodriguez(notes), Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Jimmie Foxx.

"It would put him in an elite group," Rodriguez said Monday night. "He's been a very special player, and I see two or three more coming for him, too."

Perhaps most meaningful to Pujols, Hall of Famer and longtime Cardinal Stan Musial also was a three-time winner.

Pujols, 29, and Musial, 88, are close. They were seen laughing and chatting at Busch Stadium in the days leading to the MLB All-Star Game this summer in St. Louis. They've talked strike zones, bat weights, salaries and golf. They've talked ball.

Pujols' friends say he admires Musial's skill, of course, and is amazed by Musial's longevity. In 22 seasons, Musial played in 24 All-Star Games. He took his first big-league at-bat as a 20-year-old in 1941, and hit until he was 42 in 1963.

Pujols is nine years in. He carries much of the Cardinals' offense and, for better or worse, the notion that a power hitter could come out of the last era both clean and revered. On top of the 37 home runs and 116 RBI he had last season to outpoint Philadelphia's Ryan Howard(notes) in a close MVP vote, Pujols has piled another 47 home runs and 128 RBI. By Monday evening he led the league in home runs, was tied with Milwaukee's Prince Fielder(notes) for the RBI lead and was second to Hanley Ramirez(notes) in batting, .329 to .352.

In a career that already has seen seven finishes in the top three of the MVP voting, eight All-Star Games and the National League Rookie of the Year award, Pujols previously has led the league in one Triple Crown category – the batting title he won in 2003. He could lead in two more. Either way, he's the MVP.

The others:

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: He'll win the batting title and probably finish third (behind Pujols and Fielder) in OPS. Also led the league in batting with runners in scoring position (.375).

Prince Fielder, Brewers: Outside the occasional outburst, pretty quietly put up an impressive year. The undisputed leader in Milwaukee.

Ryan Howard, Phillies: Another season of same old, same old for Howard, who thinned down, had a big season at the plate, was better around the bag and will come in behind Pujols again.

Ryan Braun, Brewers: GM Doug Melvin needs to figure out how to win while Braun and Fielder are still in their primes – and affordable.

Chase Utley(notes), Phillies: Near career highs in home runs and on-base percentage, arguably more valuable than Howard.

Andre Ethier(notes), Dodgers: Leads Dodgers in RBI (101), league in walk-off hits (six).

Pablo Sandoval(notes), Giants: Did all he could to lug a dead offense, driving in 43 runs in June and July.

Derrek Lee(notes), Cubs: Back over 30 homers and 100 RBI for first time in four years.

Troy Tulowitzki(notes), Rockies: The Rockies got hot right about the time he did.

Matt Kemp(notes), Dodgers: Has 40-40 potential; pretty good as is.

NL MVP predictions
Gordon Edes
Gordon Edes
1 Albert Pujols Cardinals Back-to-back MVPs; the statue comes next.
2 Hanley Ramirez Marlins Still just 25, and only scratching the surface.
3 Prince Fielder Brewers Also-ran status doesn't dim big man's performance.
Jeff Passan
Jeff Passan
1 Albert Pujols Cardinals And, no, it's not really close.
2 Hanley Ramirez Marlins If only his attitude matched his talent.
3 Chase Utley Phillies Always brilliant, never recognized.
Tim Brown
Tim Brown
1 Albert Pujols Cardinals His third, only Bonds has more.
2 Prince Fielder Brewers A great year with marginal lineup protection.
3 Hanley Ramirez Marlins The guy you'd start a franchise with.
Steve Henson
Steve Henson
1 Albert Pujols Cardinals The best player in baseball, no question.
2 Prince Fielder Brewers A force to be reckoned with for years to come.
3 Pablo Sandoval Giants A fresh face and a dangerous bat, to be enjoyed.