The only thing more annoying than listening to another Sportscenter segment on Terrell Owens and Bill Parcells on ESPN is listening to the sports media attempt to dramatize the American League Most Valuble Player award. The award is one that is meant to be given to a player that produces on the field and leads by example in the locker room. The most recent squabble between David Ortiz and Derek Jeter has inflammatory media tactics written all over it. However, the fact remains that it is extremely hard to compare a 196 lb. shortstop to the walking mountain that is Ortiz. I guess it’s lucky for baseball fans everywhere that Ortiz’s mastery of the English language happens to be slightly sub par and that Yankees owner George Steinbreiner has Jeter’s mouth locked up tighter than Maurice Clarett. My point is, don’t get caught up in comparing these players one-on-one; analyze instead how valuable they have been to their respective teams’ success.

The MVP award is an honor given to “the one player in the league who has contributed the most to the success of the player’s team.” I think it’s very clear from this definition that the winner of this award cannot simply be a statistical power house, but must be an all-around complete package player. This is not to say that the insane number of home runs and RBIs hit by David Ortiz or Ryan Howard don’t matter. My point is that there are intangibles such as leadership, performance in the clutch and cool-headed competitiveness that don’t show up in the statistics of the MVP race. In this year’s statistically close race it will be the intangibles that make or break the AL MVP candidates’ bid for the award.

By this point, anyone who knows baseball knows just by listening to the way I prefaced this article that my pick for AL MVP is Jeter. But before Red Sox Nation throws me under the bus, let me make an informed argument in support of Jeter – I’ll try to keep my Yankees Universe bias to a minimum.

The last non-power player to win the AL MVP was Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. Going straight by the numbers, Jeter’s season has been statistically better than Ichiro’s 2001 campaign. Derek Jeter is the captain of the Yankees, a team that has already won the American League East title and may end up with the best overall record in baseball. He is last year’s winner of the Gold Glove at shortstop and I see no reason why he shouldn’t be the recipient of that award again. This, along with many other assets that don’t show up in the offensive stats, will put Jeter ahead of Ortiz in the ballots (and is exactly why A-Rod beat out Big Papi last year).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What about the other contenders? Jermaine Dye of the White Sox and Justin Morneau of the Twins have both had stellar seasons, but both players have their downsides. It is unclear whether Dye is the best player on his own team let alone the league; Thome and Konerko both have been slamming the ball every chance they get. First baseman Morneau certainly has the numbers of an MVP caliber player, numbers that are slightly better than Jeter’s. The difference is that Jeter brings something to the table that Morneau just can’t. Through experience and multiple clutch performances Jeter brings unparalleled leadership into the postseason.

If old age were a key factor in the MVP selection process, then my vote would have to be for Frank “the Big Hurt” Thomas, just like if we based our decision on stats alone -the two clear choices would be ethier Ortiz or Morneau. However, this award is unusual in that it forces stat junkies to get their heads out of the books. Whatever the outcome of the MVP race, I don’t think anyone can deny that we’re in for an incredible postseason in baseball. So good luck to whomever receives the AL MVP award and hopefully we’ll all be able to watch him go to work in the postseason.

Edwards can be reached at reporting by Max Sicherman

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