There's always a chance he'll go into a massive slump the rest of the way, while the Yankees fall out of the playoffs. But with 24 games left, Alex Rodriguez is a clear-cut choice for American League MVP. Detroit's Magglio Ordonez is making a strong case. Ordonez is hitting .355 (.410 with runners in scoring position!) and has 120 RBIs. But A-Rod will win it if he doesn't fall apart in the stretch.
Rodriguez (45 HR, 123 runs, 129 RBIs) is on pace to become only the second player since 1938 to go 50-140-140. I know these numbers have become tainted, but it's still staggering to be reminded that Sammy Sosa had 64 homers, 146 runs and 160 RBIs in 2001. He's the only guy to reach those three standards since Hank Greenberg had 58 HR, 144 R, 146 RBI in 1938.
So considering how much sway the power numbers have over the voters, A-Rod looks like a near lock. He's also been pretty clutch this year, hitting a couple of memorable walkoff bombs when the Yankees were struggling to find themselves. He's been steady all year at third base, notwithstanding the odd dropped popup.
But A-Rod has impressed me most as a team player. There have been a number of instances when he came up with the Yankees down by more than a run and singled to start a rally or keep one alive. He'll steal a base to set up a key run, or to keep the Yanks out of a double play. Yes, he's had a few bad moments off the field, but he's been a great team player this season and deserves credit for it. Now, if only he can only silence his critics by having a dynamic postseason, the way Barry Bonds did in 2002.