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A-Rod the runaway favorite for AL MVP

A-Rod the runaway favorite for AL MVP

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In awards country, there are hotly contested campaigns. Then, there is the American League MVP race, where Alex Rodriguez is running virtually unopposed.

Made even more impressive by perspective, the New York third baseman has tendered one of the most devastating and dominating offensive seasons in recent memory. With the background of a 2006 season, in which he took both an emotional and physical beating, Rodriguez's focused rebirth is an admirable example of the power of a competitive spirit.

Never really letting up from his mythical start -- 14 homers in his first 18 games -- Rodriguez is lapping the league. At the moment, he has 33 percent more homers than the runner-up -- Carlos Pena -- and 79 percent more than the next on the list -- reigning MVP Justin Morneau.

Overall, it has been a top-heavy season for flag bearers in the AL. While no one has done it on quite as grand a scale, Rodriguez does have company on the pedestal from two other players who have been as conspicuous on their contending teams.

Magglio Ordonez, who is trying to compensate for not being the home run king by securing Detroit's first batting title in 46 years, is striving to carry the Tigers across the finish line on his back.

Once again, Vladimir Guerrero has had the big stick in the Angels' banjo-bat rack. He reminds you of the movies' "My Bodyguard," an intimidator who always shows up to quell peril and restore order.

There are other worthy candidates, some of whose merits are perhaps distorted by the prism of provincialism. There is little doubt that there is value everywhere. But when it comes to Most Valuable in 2007, there is no doubt.

THE FAVORITES

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: A-Rod set an early tone with a walk-off grand slam in the season's fourth game, and has never looked back. Always a number-cruncher, he has buried a reputation for doing most of his damage when it counts the least by batting .325 with 16 homers and 83 RBIs with men in scoring position, and .344 in the seventh inning or later. Along the way, A-Rod has set a multitude of significant home run records, from being the youngest to reach 500 to a new high for third basemen. But this award isn't about personal highs but about team value, and no one has meant more than Rodriguez -- who is 29 homers and 46 RBIs ahead of his closest teammates.

»» 2007 AWARDS CANDIDATES ««
• Most Valuable Player: AL | NL
• Cy Young Award: AL | NL
• Rookie of the Year: AL | NL
• Manager of the Year: AL | NL
• Comeback Player of the Year: AL | NL

Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: Ordonez has emphatically reclaimed his status as one of the truly under-appreciated monsters of the game, after two seasons of battling a knee injury and a third making gradual strides back. With 132 RBIs, Ordonez is within range of becoming the first Detroit player to drive in 140 runs since Hank Greenberg in 1940. He has produced 15 percent of his team's runs (RBIs plus runs minus homers) -- the same, it's worth noting, as has Rodriguez.

Vladimir Guerrero, Angels: Guerrero has an overwhelming presence in a lineup of otherwise little-ball people, but some will argue he has been less "valuable" to this edition compared to recent Angels teams -- Garret Anderson's revival and Chone Figgins' four-month fire have also helped fuel the West Division runaway. Still, Guerrero remains the most-feared man in that lineup, which affects how opponents approach everyone else. And his ability to carry a team for long stretches remains gospel. He is a few homers shy of his ninth 30-100 season.

THE CONTENDERS

Mike Lowell, Red Sox: Lowell has been Boston's steadiest hand all season, though somewhat lost in the considerable third-base shadow of A-Rod and the Nation shadows of Manny Ramirez and "Big Papi" David Ortiz. However, by leading the team in hitting and in RBIs most of the season, this "throw-in" in the Josh Beckett deal has established himself as one of the biggest steals in recent history.

Victor Martinez, Indians: With a chance for the hard-charging Indians to wind up with the league's best record, it seems reasonable for one of them to merit MVP consideration, and no one is more worthy than this versatile and dangerous player. The 28-year-old catcher is two homers shy of leading Cleveland in the Triple Crown categories, while seeing considerable action at first base in addition to behind the plate.

THE FIELD

Pena, Devil Rays; Curtis Granderson, Tigers; C.C. Sabathia, Indians.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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