Dan's Dugout: It's David vs. Goliath for American League MVP • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: It’s David vs. Goliath for American League MVP

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Now that the playoff picture is decided, writers have to pick the best players of the year.

Playoff performances don’t count so votes had to be in the minute the regular season ended Sunday.

Some of the categories seem almost too close to call.

The most glaring example is Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Should the trophy go to the league’s biggest player or its smallest?

Aaron Judge is the first rookie to hit 50+ homers Credit: Bill Menzel

Aaron Judge is the first rookie to hit 50+ homers
Credit: Bill Menzel

Had the season ended at the All-Star break, Aaron Judge would have been the odds-on favorite for both Rookie of the Year and MVP. Only Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki did that previously.

But that was before the four-day break, coupled with the post-partum disoder imposed by the Home Run Derby, turned him from Superman into Clark Kent.

He suffered a dreadful slump that reminder Yankees followers of his dismal late-season showing in 2016 and virtually dropped out of contention for the league’s most coveted trophy.

But that was before the lanky slugger rebounded in September, finishing with more home runs than any previous freshman.

In fact, he and Giancarlo Stanton were the only two major-leaguers to crack the 50-homer plateau this season.

But power isn’t everything.

Tiny Jose Altuve had another 200-hit season

Tiny Jose Altuve had another 200-hit season

Little Jose Altuve, fleet second baseman of the Houston Astros, did everything well – even supplying surprising punch for his size – and did it consistently all season. Unlike Judge, Altuve hit for average, stole bases, and played a difficult infield position. So, yes, the league’s batting champ merits the nod over the league’s home run champ – although it’s certainly a close vote.

Judge will have to be satisfied with rookie honors. He deserves unanimous selection, even though Boston outfielder Anthony Benintendi also had a stellar start to his career – and a better batting average than Judge. But the Yankee rightfielder was an RBI machine whose presence in the lineup seemed to energize everybody around him.

In the National League, Stanton would have been the choice if he had hit one more home run. How could voters deny the sixth 60-homer hitter in baseball history?

Though he led the NL in home runs and RBI, Stanton faltered when it mattered most and his Miami Marlins finished a distant second in their division. The MVP rightly belongs to Colorado centerfielder Charlie Blackmon, who led the Senior Circuit in batting, hits, triples, and total bases while compiling more runs batted as a leadoff man than any other previous player. Thanks to his unwordly table-setting, the Rockies reached the playoffs as the second NL wild card.

The league’s best team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, deserve two individual awards. Cody Bellinger, like Judge, should be a unanimous Rookie of the Year selection, while ERA champ Clayton Kershaw is a strong bet to take his fourth Cy Young in a three-way race with strikeout king Max Scherzer and Comeback of the Year candidate Zack Greinke.

Cody Bellinger was a rookie who played like a veteran

Cody Bellinger was a rookie who played like a veteran

Chris Sale, in his first year with the Boston Red Sox, had the first 300-strikeout season since Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez turned the trick for the 1999 Bosox but Cleveland’s Corey Kluber closed so quickly that he could snatch his second Cy. Sale struggled in late summer, allowing the steadier Cleveland stud to pass him in the Cy Young chase. He even gave up four home runs in a game as the Sox stumbled to the AL East title by a narrow margin over the Yankees.

Managers of the Year? For the second year in a row, a rookie pilot deserves the NL honor. Torey Lovullo, who lifted the Diamondbacks from the depths to the playoffs like a phoenix rising from the ashes, will succeed Dave Roberts of the Dodgers.

In the American League, Terry Francona was even more terrific than he was last year. Despite missing a chunk of time with a heart problem, he guided his charges to a league-record 22 straight wins even without the services of super reliever Andrew Miller and several other players.

Individual awards will be announced the week after the World Series ends. But the votes are already in – with no hanging chads expected.

Weekend Wrap:

Although the Braves hope he’ll return, R.A. Dickey is thinking of hanging up his knuckleball after pitching 400 times, including 300 starts and a Cy Young Award season . . .

Giancarlo Stanton led the NL in homers and RBI

Giancarlo Stanton led the NL in homers and RBI

With $325 million left on his contract, Giancarlo Stanton expects the cost-conscious Miami Marlins to trade him even if he wins the National League’s MVP award . . .

Minnesota will be the decided undergo against the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game Tuesday but the return of slugger Miguel Sano could change the outcome . . .

Wishing a fond farewell to retiring pitchers Matt Cain (Giants) and Bronson Arroyo (Reds) . . .

Will this be the year the pitching-rich Washington Nationals finally win a postseason series?

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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