4. Carlos Delgado, Blue Jays.
The first-half MVP faded. Delgado, the AL leader in RBIs (130) and on-base percentage (.426), had 28 home runs before the All-Star break, but the first baseman hit only eight in the second half through Sunday, including five in August and September.
5. Bret Boone, Mariners.
Like most Seattle hitters, including Ichiro Suzuki, Boone didn't hit down the stretch. The second baseman batted .254 after the All-Star break, including .250 in September.
6. Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox.
Boston ended the week with four of the top six hitters in on-base plus slugging percentages (OPS), and Garciaparra wasn't one of them. None of those four can possibly be MVP: leftfielder Manny Ramirez, because he was more interested in hanging with Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson than in playing crucial games against New York last month; rightfielder Trot Nixon, because he often sits against lefties; third baseman Bill Mueller, because he had only 82 RBIs; and David Ortiz, because he got enough bench time to have only 428 at bats and 74 runs. Also to Garciaparra's detriment are his home-road splits (.369 batting average at Fenway, .245 elsewhere), his September fade (.178) and his protection in the lineup. He was intentionally walked only once all year.
7. Miguel Tejada, A's.
Some Oakland observers don't believe he's even the team MVP, though third baseman Eric Chavez, who spearheaded the A's second-half surge, didn't hit against lefthanders (.210). You can't win the MVP with a .298 on-base percentage at the All-Star break, a .215 batting average against your closest division rival and AN OPS as low as 36th in the league.
8. Magglio Ordo�ez, White Sox.
The right-fielder hit .359 in the second half but still had fewer homers for the season (28) and drove in fewer runs (92) than two of his teammates, free-swinging leftfielder Carlos Lee and DH Frank Thomas, who hit .224 in September.
9. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays.
The center-fielder had some solid numbers—33 homers, 115 RBIs and a .361 on-base percentage—but they didn't measure up to those of his teammate Delgado.
10. Bill Mueller, Red Sox.
His defense and sock at third base allowed Boston to trade Shea Hillenbrand for closer Byung-Hyun Kim. As unexpectedly big as Mueller's season was—he entered the final week leading the league in hitting, at .329—he still didn't drive in or score 100 runs for a team that scored more than 900 of them.
With MVP voters (two baseball writers from each American League city, who will submit their ballots before the postseason) confronting so many possibilities, the results may resemble those of 1999. That year six players received first-place votes, including Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was listed as low as seventh and was the first MVP winner in 33 years not to get the most first-place votes.
A-Rod could benefit from a similar lack of clarity. He's not the optimal MVP candidate. He's simply the best.