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NL Roundup

The real MVP

Often times, it's best not to procrastinate, but instead settle things as soon as possible. Such is the case with the debate over the NL MVP.

With a sizzling August, Adrian Beltre has vaulted himself from a fringe candidate looking to secure a few third-place votes to quite possibly the frontrunner. And to the unsuspecting eye, he looks to be quite the candidate, what with his gaudy batting average of .341 and league-leading 42 long balls. It won't hurt that he's the best hitter on a team that finds itself in first place with 30 games left in the season either. He's even got his teammates involved in the festivities, apparently hiring Shawn Green as his campaign manager who said this when asked whether Beltre was deserving of the MVP.

"I've been on a lot of teams where guys have hit 40-plus home runs, and nothing compares to this."

However, perhaps Beltre's greatest asset is that he's played injured for a good portion of the season, yet still managed to excel. In the minds of guys like Baseball Tonight's John Kruk that alone makes him the clear-cut choice for MVP. After all, to 'baseball guys' like Kruk, heart may be the single-most important piece of any baseball player. Maybe, scouts should modify the five-tool system and include this in their analysis. In fact, it would probably supplant speed as the fifth most important tool.

So, before the marketing machine surrounding the Dodgers' third baseman gains too much momentum, I'd like to nominate my candidate. Without further adieu, I present Chad Tracy (of the Arizona Diamondbacks).

To many, this may seem an odd choice as he's only managed five home runs in 385 at-bats. From a glance, he doesn't seem to do anything exceptionally well when standing in the batter's box. He hits for a decent average, draws a fair amount of walks and generally puts the ball in play. And that is exactly where the value of Chad Tracy lies.

On a team that hasn't won four games in a row since 2003, Tracy has been a pillar of consistency. Despite two separate losing streaks of more than ten games, Tracy didn't change his approach to the game one bit. He continued his yeoman effort, grinding out seeing-eye groundball singles when down in the count and sacrificing his body in order to make a diving stab at every ball hit within the vicinity of third base.

To give your finest effort while in the midst of a disastrous season is a difficult task indeed, even for proven veterans of the game. For Tracy to do that in his first season in the big leagues isn't just impressive, it's downright amazing.

Consider these statistics. During the month of July, Tracy posted an OPS of .764. Despite the losses continuing to mount in August, Tracy again posted an OPS of .764. One cannot place a number on what value this brings to the clubhouse. Chad Tracy may have been overlooked up to this point, but that will all end right now.

By now, you've likely figured out that I don't really support Chad Tracy for any position except starting third baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005. Likewise though, I lend no support to the cause of Adrian Beltre. Obviously, Beltre has had an amazing season, and this being a contract year, he will be handsomely rewarded for it.

The point is that any player you endorse for MVP that isn't named Barry Bonds is for reasons other than baseball production. In that sense, picking Chad Tracy is no worse than picking Beltre or Scott Rolen or Albert Pujols. Whether that reason is Beltre being the best hitter on a weak team, Jim Edmonds looking dapper in the Cardinal's gray uniforms or Kaz Matsui's ability to bring jingoistic Japanese fans to Shea Stadium doesn't matter.

If MVP is based on baseball, Bonds wins, and any voter who submits a ballot that says otherwise should have his suffrage privilege revoked forever.

Special commendation this week came down to a fierce competition between Lance Berkman and Kyle Farnsworth. In a normal week, Farnsworth hyper-extending his knee while kicking an electric fan after a bad outing would certainly garner the award.

However, this is no normal week because of Berkman. After apparently taking a Mike Remlinger fastball in the head, Berkman proceeded to writhe in pain on the ground for a full minute. Even before the aforementioned incident, the game looked more like a dodgeball contest than an important game in the postseason chase, but no matter how many players get drilled in the back, a baseball to the head is something no one ever wants to see.

Because of that, Berkman's actions were absolutely deplorable. After replays clearly showed the ball traveling over his head, Berkman justified his action by saying the pitch had discombobulated him and he may have hit his head on the ground.

Farnsworth acted like an idiot, but Berkman acted like a coward. Hence, Berkman gets the nod.

As always, all comments are welcome and can be sent to [email protected].