One could make the case that Adrian Gonzalez remained a favorite for the American League MVP award despite a home run drought which lasted 84 at-bats.
He may have been a candidate during that drought, but his case was certainly weakened by the nearly month-long stretch in which he failed to leave the yard and slugged less than .400.
But over the last three days in Texas, Gonzalez has emphatically thrown his name back into the A.L. MVP hat by hitting five home runs against Rangers pitching.
The last three of those home runs all came on consecutive pitches, and after the second of his two blasts on Thursday night, he was greeted by cheers of “M-V-P” while rounding third base at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The slugger is now batting .348 with 23 home runs and 102 RBI, joining Curtis Granderson (who hit one of three Yankee grand slams on Thursday) as the only two players in the A.L. who have produced 100+ runs.
In the eyes of many in baseball, Gonzalez was the clear favorite to take home the MVP at the All-Star break. After smacking five homers in the span of only 12 at-bats, he might have climbed back to the top of the list.
Granderson is having a better statistical season in numerous offensive categories (including home runs and slugging percentage), but he’s hitting 70 points lower than Gonzalez, a sizable margin which could sway voters after the season.
This isn’t to say that Granderson doesn’t deserve the MVP. He’s on pace to hit more than 40 homers for a Yankee team which has been without Alex Rodriguez for the last six weeks. Going 40-and-100 for a playoff team is usually enough to lock it up.
With that said, the MVP is typically given to a hitter who performs in all three triple crown categories, and if Gonzalez has truly found his swing again, he will likely have the more complete resume at year’s end.
It will come down to which resume looks better to the majority of voters: A .350, 30 HR, 120 RBI season or a .280, 44 HR, 120 RBI season.
Both are elite in their own way, but only one can prevail.
It’s sure to be an extremely close race, and it may come down to which team (Boston or New York) wins the American League East. In the end, that may be somewhat unfair, but it’s the reality of the MVP award.
Whether it’s right or wrong, playing for a winning team matters when it comes to this piece of hardware. The Red Sox currently have a one game lead in the division, and they host the Yankees for a three-game series at Fenway Park next week.
Perhaps that series will provide some clarity for what is currently a cloudy MVP picture in the A.L. If Gonzalez brings his power stroke back from the Texas heat, the race will continue to gather steam.
Alastair Ingram is the featured Boston Red Sox columnist for RantSports.com. For daily updates, follow him on Twitter at @AlastairIngram, follow the blog at @RedSoxRant, and join the fan page on Facebook.