Barry Bonds, who affects a game like no other player, will add to his trophy collection
When New York giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was in his prime, opposing teams had to account for him on every snap. Such omnipresence isn't common in baseball, in which even the most feared slugger has to wait his turn to hit. But Barry Bonds dictates how a game is played even when he's not in the batter's box. That's why he will win his record sixth MVP award, despite Albert Pujols's strong run at the Triple Crown. "Barry just changes everything," Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell says. "Everything is predicated on where Barry is in that lineup, each inning. The man gets, like, one pitch a night to hit. And let's not forget, he's hitting [.340]."
At week's end Pujols had 36 more RBIs than Bonds, but there was also the small matter of Bonds's getting more intentional walks by a margin of 60 to 12. Bonds's on-base percentage through Sunday (.533) would rank fifth alltime, his slugging percentage (.756) would rank eighth, and his OPS (1.289) would rank sixth, exceeded only by Babe Ruth and Bonds himself.
While Pujols will join Mickey Mantle as the only runner-up to the same MVP winner two years in a row ( Roger Maris topped Mantle in 1960 and '61), Bonds will finish in the top five for the 11th time. Someday they'll name the award after him. Would next week be too soon?