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Nice year, Mac, but this one's Sosa's

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Posted: Wednesday September 23, 1998 10:36 AM

 

Mark McGwire has saved baseball.

C'mon. Sammy Sosa had a hand in that, too, and he's kept alive the postseason hopes of perennially postseason-challenged Chicago.

Yeah, well, where would the Cardinals be without Big Mac?

Where would the Cubs be without Sammy?

McGwire's probably going to end up with the most coveted record in baseball -- most home runs ever for a season. Bam. Gotcha.

If he does, Sammy won't be that far behind. Bam that.

OK. Mac looks much more impressive in a T-shirt.

Yeah, but Sosa smiles more ...

If this is September, it must be time, once again, for the annual MVP debate.

It's The Noise of Summer.

This year, the National League MVP voters are faced with an unusual choice between two men who have smashed the season record for home runs. Between the two who would be home run kings -- and sorry, Moises Alou and others, but that's what this is coming down to -- who would be your MVP?

Do you go for McGwire, who leads Sosa in magazine covers this summer, 1,282-6?

Or do you opt for Sosa, who is better in just about every category that counts, save for the home runs?
Sosa's not only the man in Chicago, but the MVP in the National League AP 

And one more question: How can you even make a pick when no one can agree on the meaning of what an MVP is?

It's easy in St. Louis and Chicago. McGwire is nothing short of the great game's savior in St. Louis, and the people in that fine baseball city believe mentioning anyone else for MVP is blasphemy.

In Chicago, which hasn't had a World Series champ since 1908, Sosa is seen as the one man who can, single-handedly, get them to the promised land. Big Mac had a huge season, but Sam's the MVP Man, they say.

For the record, it's not just St. Louis and Chicago that vote for this award. Two Baseball Writers Association of America voters from each National League city submit their choices. That's how it's done.

And that's why, when the homers and hearts are removed from all this, it looks like Sosa's your MVP -- home run record or not.

Maybe the most nearsighted argument for McGwire as MVP comes from the people in St. Louis who insist that he deserves it simply because he has brought people back to baseball and back to the ballpark. For sure, he did that. Attendance jumped by more than 7,000 a game in St. Louis, and there were packed houses everywhere he played.

But Sosa really hasn't been given his due, simply because he did not break Roger Maris' record first. Fact is, Sammy was right there with Big Mac in bringing people back to the game. At its frenzied height, the home run chase was all about McGwire and Sosa. And you can argue that, of the two sluggers, it was the media-friendly Sosa that softened the most strike-hardened hearts.

You wanna get into numbers in the MVP debate? It's Sosa. With all those home runs, Mac could end the season a dozen or more RBIs short of Sosa.

Most valuable to his team? This is never easy to figure, but figure this: The Cardinals are barely .500 with McGwire in the lineup. They'd be worse without him, but it wouldn't really matter.

Without Sosa, the Cubs would be the Cardinals.

Almost always, the voters will go with the player on the better team. There have been exceptions. Andre Dawson won the MVP on a last-place Cubs team in 1987. And Ernie Banks won back-to-back MVPs on a couple of sub-.500 Cubs teams in '58 and '59.

But when a player has comparable numbers -- or, in Sosa's case, mostly better numbers -- and he plays for a better team, there really should be no question.

This debate is really over, in everywhere but St. Louis.

Sorry Big Mac. Thanks for a great year, but this one belongs to Sosa.

John Donovan is senior writer for CNNSI.com  

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