COMMENTARY | The Texas Rangers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball the past 3 1/2 weeks, winning 18 of 22 games to turn a 6-game deficit into a 2 1/2-game lead in the AL West on Aug. 22.
At the forefront of the Rangers' surge has been their cleanup hitter and third baseman, Adrian Beltre, who has batted over .400 during that 3 1/2-week stretch. Ten of the 26 homers he has hit this year have either tied the score or put the Rangers ahead.
If Beltre can keep up this pace, he should receive some consideration for the American League Most Valuable Player Award -- especially if the Rangers make the playoffs. He is deserving -- he is a leader and is the best offensive player on a team bound for the postseason, and he also plays a solid third base. Beltre's 162 hits tie him with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the league lead. Beltre is third in average, fifth in both slugging and OPS, and eighth in both home runs and RBIs. And this after he batted .222 in April.
Unfortunately, for Beltre, his outstanding season has gone relatively unnoticed by the national media. Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, a former Ranger, has (deservedly) garnered heavy media coverage for his Cinderella season and will likely win the MVP Award. After all, Davis has 20 more homers and nearly 50 more RBIs than Beltre, and fair or not, these are the stats viewed as most important by the baseball writers who vote.
Davis will probably win the MVP even if Baltimore doesn't make the playoffs, and he would be a good choice. But Beltre is quietly building his own case for the award. Beltre's numbers are not gaudy like those of Davis, but they are solid and worthy of MVP consideration.
Beltre has stepped up and led the charge for a team that slumped badly for most of July but has gained 8 1/2 games in the standings in the 22 games since July 29, and he does not appear to be slowing down. Beltre has stepped up to produce for a team that lost its leading home run hitter and run producer, Nelson Cruz, to a PED-related suspension on Aug. 5.
The writers are aware of Beltre, since last year he finished third in MVP voting and he placed second in 2004 when he was with the Dodgers. He didn't have a realistic shot of winning either year, however. Last year, Miguel Cabrera stole the spotlight with his monster Triple Crown season and ran away with the MVP trophy while rookie phenom Mike Trout of the Angels was second. In the 2004 NL race, Beltre finished a distant second to Barry Bonds, who had stats that season that were previously achieved only in video games (like 232 walks, an OBP over .600, and a slugging percentage over .800).
It looks like Beltre will miss out on the award again this season because of Chris Davis, but that will certainly be OK with Beltre, the fans, and everyone associated with the Rangers if the team can win that elusive championship. Beltre will be the Rangers' MVP regardless of what the baseball writers say.
Nevertheless, they should still give him some serious consideration.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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