Following this year's Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, there really was not that much doubt about who the American League MVP would be. It was going to be Adrian Gonzalez. He led the league in batting average and RBI. He was near the top in power numbers and playing gold glove-caliber first base—it wasn't a "lock," but he was a clear-cut favorite.
Then the rest of July and Early August happened. Or in Gonzalez's case, nothing happened. He still got some hits, but the runs weren't getting batted in, the deep fly balls were staying in the ballpark and the league leading numbers vanished, with the exception of his batting average.
On Monday of this week, most unbiased observers would have placed Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista one and two in the MVP race. Third? That was crowded too: Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Verlander? Plenty of options.
As it turned out, all Gonzalez needed was a trip to Arlington, Texas, the city where he first appeared in a major league game back in 2004. The Red Sox entered the Rangers series with some trepidation. The offense was banged up, Gonzalez was slumping, Kevin Youklis was on the disabled list and David Ortiz and Ellsbury both were out of Monday's lineup.
The Red Sox would lose 4-0 with Gonzalez going 1-for-3 to drop his average to .343. Then something happened. The next three games would see the Red Sox win all three by a combined score of 30-7. Over those three games, Gonzalez went a combined 7-for-12 with five home runs, seven runs scored and eight RBI. Gonzalez is on fire right now and that's great news for Red Sox fans.
He's still on the outside looking in on the MVP race, but the numbers that seemed somewhat soft less than a week ago now show a league-leading 181 hits and .348 batting average. He's one RBI behind Curtis Granderson with 102 and has an OPS of .975, good for second in the league.
Curtis Granderson, in spite of having a much lower batting average, is probably still the favorite. He plays a more critical position (centerfield), has more home runs by a wide margin (36-23), more RBI and a lot more runs. Plus he can factor his 24 stolen bases into the equation.
Jose Bautista has a compelling case, but playing on a non-contender like the Blue Jays will hurt him. Finally, Gonzalez will likely shed a few votes to teammates and worthy MVP-candidates Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Even with all those obstacles facing him, Gonzalez could end up on a first place team while leading the league in batting average and RBI. That might be enough to get him an MVP award, an award that seemed to be fading the rear-view mirror until this past Tuesday.