Votes will not be cast for the American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for another three weeks, and the results won't be made public until November, but the debate already is raging.
The back-and-forth goes beyond which candidate is most deserving, an argument that gets made every year. This debate is more specific. Some voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America do not believe that starting pitchers should be eligible for the MVP. Pitchers, the argument goes, already have their own award (the Cy Young) and shouldn't compete with position players for the MVP.
The ballot, however, clearly reminds voters that pitchers are not to be excluded from the vote.
It's rare that starting pitchers have the kind of season which translates into an MVP-worthy year. Think, say, of Bob Gibson and his 13 shutouts and 1.12 ERA in 1968. Or Ron Guidry's 25-victory season in 1978.
About once a decade, a pitcher is so dominant that, although he takes part in hardly more than one-fifth of his team's games, his impact is just as big, and his performance just as valuable as the speedy outfielder or slugging first baseman. This would seem to be one of those years.
Justin Verlander, the Detroit pitcher, has 22 wins, three more than any other pitcher, and a 2.44 ERA. Without him, the Tigers would be not lead their division.
That's not to suggest that Verlander should be the winner. But it does mean he belongs in the conversation.