Tejada, Giambi or Soriano would be fine choices to win the MVP. That's Rodriguez's problem: There are too many candidates from winning teams to pick a player off a last-place club. Context does matter. What were the consequences for Texas if Rodriguez didn't drive home a runner from scoring position with two outs (situations in which he hit .214)? And if you believe the intra-divisional games that the Rangers played in September were meaningful because they mattered toward deciding the pennant race, can you write off Rodriguez's hitting .209 this month?
Nothing is more valuable in the game than contributing at an elite level for a playoff-bound team. And no one did it in more ways than Soriano, a Swiss Army knife of offensive might. He is the only MVP candidate who made pitchers quake whether he was batting with no one on base or taking a lead off first base. He gave the post-O'Neill-Martinez-Knoblauch-Brosius Yankees a new dynamic offensive personality by turning singles into doubles, stealing bases with bravado and answering the call for a clutch hitter. He outran Suzuki, outslugged Tejada and racked up more extra-base hits than A-Rod. The thinking man's MVP ballot, with a respectful nod to Rodriguez's peerless season, should therefore start with Soriano.
Of the 143 MVP winners in history, only six have been leadoff hitters. And only one Yankee in the last quarter century has earned the honor ( Don Mattingly, 1985). But it's been much longer since anyone in pinstripes carved up the league quite the way Soriano has. The MVP race is perfectly clear now. Isn't it?