With so many candidates this year, the Most Valuable Player award for both the American League and the National League should be renamed the Many Valuable Players award.
One award, lots of choices for AL and NL MVP
Approximately six weeks remain in the 2011 major-league baseball season. That's a good thing, considering it may take that long to sort out the MVP races in both leagues.
In the American League, it seems all but certain that New York, Boston and Texas will be three-quarters of the play-off field.
The list of Most Valuable Player candidates is twice as long.
The Yankees can offer Curtis Granderson, who leads the league in runs batted in, and Mark Teixeira, who is among the leaders in home runs and RBI.
Boston boasts three candidates: Jacoby Ellsbury, who has emerged as a five-tool player in a breakout season; Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the league in hitting while providing terrific defence; and Dustin Pedroia, who won the award in 2008 and whose energetic play has keyed the Red Sox's turnaround from a slow start.
Toronto can make a case for Jose Bautista, who leads the league in homers, OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and WAR - a 21st-century metric called wins against replacement, which is said to measure a player's true value to his team.
Bautista will lose votes because the Blue Jays are not in play-off contention, but may gain others for posting great numbers without a lot of support.
Those six candidates all come from AL East teams.
Other notable players include Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera.
Only Texas, among the likely play-off entrants, lack an obvious MVP candidate.
The field is no less crowded in the National League, where the first-place Philadelphia Phillies, like the Red Sox, have a number of possible contenders, including Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and sparkplug outfielder Shane Victorino.
Milwaukee could make the case for either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder and their offensive contributions that have carried the Brewers.
Arizona have Justin Upton, who has been the best player in the league's most surprising team.
Finally, there's Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, the NL equivalent of Bautista - a terrific player, enjoying a career year for a team out of contention.
There have been close races before. In 1979, Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez shared the NL MVP and in 1995, Mo Vaughn edged Albert Belle by a slim margin in the American League.
This season, the balloting could be very close, and possibly determined in the final week.
The introduction of newer measuring sticks - such as WAR and the like - have made the decision-making more informed, yes, but also more competitive.