According to some baseball experts, the race for the NL MVP Award is wide-open. Every baseball fan wants his favorite player to earn the prestigious award. This debate has generated more excitement in the sport at this stage of the season than normal.
Since Tulowitzki and Goldschmidt are out for the season, many baseball people feel Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins is the clear-cut favorite. Despite playing on a team that's on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, Stanton's offensive prowess has helped the Marlins climb out of last place to third in the NL East. At 24, he has hit an NL-best 36 home runs. He also leads the Majors with 102 RBIs. As a superstar in the NL, Stanton deserves national recognition for his phenomenal offensive performance.
Many fans, especially Dodgers fans, want Clayton Kershaw to earn the NL MVP Award, along with the NL Cy Young Award. Although I haven't seen a more dominant starting pitcher (granted, I wasn't around when Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson performed) than Kershaw in 2014, he doesn't deserve the MVP Award. No pitcher does. I understand sometimes the sportswriters vote for an unbelievable pitcher to win the prestigious award like they did in 2011, when Justin Verlander won the American League MVP and the Cy Young Award.
But a position player can't win the Cy Young Award, so why should a pitcher win the MVP? Although Kershaw has won 17 games despite missing a month, he participated in just 23 games. He is a superb all-around athlete, but he doesn't make a remarkable game-saving defensive play or drive in a game-winning hit.
The player who deserves recognition for his contributions to the team but won't get it is Justin Turner of the Dodgers, who probably don't want to think where they would be without their unlikely unsung hero.
When he signed with his hometown team, Turner had no delusions of being an everyday player. After all, general manager Ned Colletti signed Turner to a Minor League contract to have a more competitive Spring Training. Colletti believes a highly competitive Spring Training makes the players work harder and perform better. If a player needs an incentive to do his best, the team shouldn't want him.
From the beginning of Spring Training, it was obvious that Turner was a unique player. Playing in meaningless games, Turner would do anything to win. He had no reluctance to get dirty while showing his willingness to play anywhere the Dodgers needed him. When most of the Dodgers didn't have good offensive performances during Spring Training, Turner could hit. No one who followed the Dodgers somewhat during the spring was surprised when Turner made the Opening Day roster.
Turner, while with the New York Mets, showed an extraordinary ability to pinch-hit, so during April, he became the chief pinch-hitter for the Dodgers. Whenever they faced a left-handed starter, manager Don Mattingly replaced the left-handed Dee Gordon with the righty Turner. No matter which situation the Dodgers used him, Turner delivered.
When Gordon demonstrated an ability to hit left-handed pitching consistently, everyone thought Turner's playing time would be diminished. But then, Juan Uribe severely strained a hamstring. Turner admirably filled in for Uribe, who had been one of the best offensive producers for the Dodgers. Over a six-week period despite pulling his own hamstring, Turner was one of the main reasons that the Dodgers stayed in the race for the NL West title.
Turner, a lifetime .276 hitter, has proven that he can perform at a much higher level when given the chance. Turner's raw baseball skills don't compare to most Major Leaguers, but not many more talented players give more of themselves on the field than Turner. His desire to help his team to win any way that he can is evident. Since the All-Star break, he has hit .370.
Mattingly speaks about players needing to have toughness to win a World Series championship. Turner has the toughness, and he doesn't make excuses for having a bad performance on a given day. Turner, even though he isn't a projected everyday player or doesn't catch many media headlines, has had an integral role of enabling the Dodgers to lead the NL West since the end of June.
For certain, Turner will play a vital role in September when the Dodgers battle the San Francisco Giants for the NL West crown. Undoubtedly, no sportswriter will choose Turner as the NL MVP, but he has exemplified everything a league's MVP should be in my book.