No starting pitcher has won the National League Most Valuable Player Award since 1968 and there have been only two from the American League since then. But that might change this year considering the dominance of Detroit righthander Justin Verlander.
Verlander is 19 games over .500, at 24-5 after a no-decision Saturday, for a team that is 24 games over, having already won the American League Central Division title. Verlander entered the weekend leading the league in earned-run average, at 2.29, innings pitched (244) and strikeouts (also 244) and lowest opponents' batting average, .190.
Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson spends his television baseball time mostly watching his old team. But he is familiar enough with Verlander and also familiar with the MVP award and Cy Young Award, both of which he won in 1968 as the last National League starter to do so.
When Verlander's accomplishments were quoted to Gibson the other day, he had no reservations about saying that the Tigers star deserves the MVP, although Verlander isn't an everyday player.
"His record pretty much speaks for itself," Gibson said. "You've got to take into consideration what he means to winning the pennant. To pick a guy who had a great year and their team is nowhere near winning the pennant ... I don't know that you consider him nearly as much.
"When you're right in the middle of the race, who else would you consider?"
Gibson said when a club has a pitcher such as Verlander, "it gives the team a lot more of a comfort zone."
And to be that imposing, said Gibson, "is a lot of fun."
Gibson should know. He was 22-9 with a legendary 1.12 ERA in 1968. Besides leading in strikeouts (268) and holding opponents to a .184 average, Gibson also had 28 complete games out of 34 starts and pitched a whopping 3042⁄3 innings.
If Verlander had won his final start on Saturday, he would have finished 25-5, the same record Los Angeles' Sandy Koufax had in 1963 when he was the major league Cy Young Award winner and NL MVP.
There are several MVP candidates among American League position players this year. At the top are Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, New York center fielder Curtis Granderson and Texas all-purpose player Michael Young.
Before the weekend, Gonzalez was first in average (.341) and third in runs batted in (116). Ellsbury was fifth in average (.319 ) and possessed the odd combination for a leadoff man of 37 stolen bases and being tied for the lead in total bases with Gonzalez (340). Granderson, hitting .271, was first in RBIs (119), second in homers (41) and the leader by 19 in runs scored, at 134.
Infielder/DH Young was second in average at .335 and had his first 100 RBI season, with 104.
In Gibson's MVP year only one player, San Francisco's Willie McCovey, drove in more than 100 runs - 105. McCovey led in homers (36). Gibson got 14 first-place votes, the other six going to batting leader Pete Rose, who averaged .335 for Cincinnati. In the greatest year for the pitcher in some 100 years, the entire league averaged just .243.
NEWS ITEM: The Cardinals' meltdown after holding a four-run lead in the ninth inning on Thursday marked their biggest squander of the season.
HUMMEL'S TAKE: It might have been as big a ninth-inning punch in the gut as the Cardinals have received this late in the season since 1963. The soon-to-be World Series champion Dodgers had come to town in mid-September with a one-game lead over the Cards in the National League standings.
Much like this year's team's surge, the Cards had won 19 out of 20. But the Dodgers won the first two games of the series and then bagged the third in extra innings after rookie Dick Nen, in the only hit he would ever have for the Dodgers, tied the game with a ninth-inning home run off Ron Taylor.