Lost in the endless talk about Albert Pujols and Joey Votto may just be the real Most Valuable Player in the National League. Though the Colorado Rockies don’t have the national following of the Cardinals or Pujols, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has taken the league by storm in the second half of the season and even has the most legitimate chance of securing the Triple Crown. Even if the Rockies don’t somehow get into the postseason, something that is still very possible at this point, Gonzalez could end up being the most unlikely M.V.P. in quite a while.
The reason for the general level of obscurity surrounding Gonzalez is that he’s never even played close to a full season and is still only 24. While 24 is getting up there in age for the NFL, baseball players need considerably more time to develop and 2010 was Gonzalez’s first full season in uniform. But as Pujols and Votto got off to smoking starts with their respective clubs, Gonzalez was still feeling his way into the everyday lineup and wasn’t even considered in the M.V.P. discussion in the first half of the season.
But everything started to change for Gonzalez and the Rockies in July. That month, Gonzalez broke out with a .382 average, nine homers and 22 RBIs, bringing him within in a stone’s throw of the top run producers in the league. The torrid month didn’t stop there, however, as Gonzalez has simply continued to rake throughout the home stretch. As some of the older players in the league have started to fade as we’ve headed deeper into the season, Gonzalez has only gotten stronger.
Even with a couple hot months, however, nobody was ready for the stretch that Gonzalez went on at the end of August and beginning of September. Gonzalez had a stretch in which he had at least three hits in six of nine games while continuing his tremendous power production. While baseball writers were starting to contemplate the realistic possibility that either Votto or Pujols could win the Triple Crown, all of a sudden Gonzalez found himself leading the National League in both batting average and RBIs – two categories that he was still leading as of Sept. 10.
Of course, Gonzalez will have a very difficult time overcoming Pujols in terms of home runs, which will likely dash his chances at a Triple Crown. Still, Gonzalez is on pace to finish the season somewhere in the neighborhood of a .335 average, 37 homers and 115 RBIs. In a season that RBI totals are down across the board, 115 RBIs would almost certainly be enough to lead the N.L. With those type of numbers, Gonzalez has certainly become a draw capable of selling loads of Colorado Rockies tickets.
Most importantly, though, is that the Rockies continue to be in the playoff hunt and as of Sept. 10 were only 3.5 games behind fading division leaders San Diego. The Rockies also could potentially win the Wild Card and have been playing very good baseball down the stretch, with Gonzalez certainly acting as the team’s catalyst. Though his name may not have the overall appeal as some of the other superstars in the league, Gonzalez certainly looks to be changing that as fans are forced to take note of his auspicious talent. The National League may have another dominant hitter on their hands.
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