Morneau could join rare multi-MVP club
Twins slugger among favorites for honor, announced Tuesday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau has already been awarded the honor of being named the most valuable player in the American League last season by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.But now comes the question: Will the Baseball Writers' Association of America bestow him with the same honor? Morneau will find out the answer to that question Tuesday when the 2008 AL Most Valuable Player Award is announced. Albert Pujols of the Cardinals has already swept both awards for the National League, and there is a chance that Morneau could do the same for the AL. The first baseman certainly put up impressive numbers in 2008 while helping the Twins in their surprise pennant chase that lasted until the final day of the season. Morneau batted .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs (second most in the AL) while playing all of the Twins' 163 games. His 47 doubles led all Major League first basemen while also setting a new Twins record. He also was one of just three AL players to finish the season with an average over .300 plus at least 40 doubles and 100 RBIs. This year's award would mark the second AL MVP honor for Morneau, and he would become just the third AL player to win more than one MVP honor in the last two decades. During that span, Alex Rodriguez has won the award three times (2003, '05, '07), and Frank Thomas was a back-to-back winner of the honor in 1993 and '94. Morneau, 27, was the surprise pick for the award in '06 when he beat out Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. And this year, Morneau is also not considered to be the favorite -- although the 2008 AL MVP race may be one of the hardest to call in recent history. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was the early favorite for the honor heading into the All-Star break, but his numbers dropped in the second half. White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin could have been the runaway winner if not for the wrist injury that caused him to miss the final month of the season. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez set the single-season saves record and is a candidate, but the award has typically not gone to pitchers.
The Red Sox have two strong candidates for the award in Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, but there is a chance that the players could wind up splitting the Boston vote.Morneau could be hurt by that same thing, as catcher Joe Mauer put together another impressive season while hitting .328 to earn his second batting title. But Mauer has not gotten as much support for MVP as some others, and the catcher also had a strong year in '06 but didn't hurt Morneau's candidacy for the award. Morneau's numbers in '08 were similar to those he put up two years ago, but this season may be even more impressive because the first baseman was without the support of the bats of Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer behind him. Hunter departed via free agency prior to the start of the '08 season, and Cuddyer missed the majority of the season due to various injuries. It left Morneau as the primary power bat in the Twins lineup, and while the club was unable to reach the postseason, the first baseman was a big reason why the team was able to defy expectations. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Twins, they remained in the AL Central race until the very last day of the season -- losing in a one-game playoff to the White Sox.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.