The players have spoken: In a recent Cubs.com story, beat writer Carrie Muskrat revealed that the Cubs’ players are leaning towards Geovany Soto and Mark DeRosa.
In terms of statistics, the two players are nearly identical: Both have a .285 batting average. Soto has 86 RBIs, while DeRosa has 87. DeRosa has 21 home runs, but Soto does him two better. The only significant difference between the two is in runs scored: DeRosa has 103, while Soto has only 66–a stat that has to do more with where they are hitting in the order, since their OBP is nearly the same.
So what about the ol’ standby of Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee? It seems like they’ve both continued to hold down the team in the three/four spots in the lineup. Lee’s batting average is .292, and both he and Ramirez have more RBIs than Soto and DeRosa. Even Soriano has posted some monster power numbers, leading the team in home runs with 27 (hey, this is 2008 and not 1998–the days of 60-70 home runs a season are in the past). Nobody is arguing that Ramirez, Lee, and Soriano aren’t “the big three” in the order. You could add Theriot in there, and you’d be talking about the best top-of-the-lineup in the National League. How can you single out just one of them for the MVP?
And that’s why the talk has turned to players like DeRosa and Soto for the Cubs’ MVP. Players and fans are now asking, “What differentiates an MVP candidate from the rest of the team?” Is it batting? Defense? Lead-off ability? Or is it an intangible such as the ability to spark a rally or turn a game around? Soto’s supporters point to his game-calling skills as Cubs’ pitchers’ secret weapon. DeRosa fans say it’s his versatility to play any position. And I don’t even have the time right now to mention the pitchers who deserve mention.
Right now, I think that the Brewers, Mets, Phillies, and Dodgers are wishing that they, too, had an “MVP controversy.” The Brewers are riding Sabathia; the Mets are riding, well, no one; the Phillies have Brad Lidge to thank for their 75-0 record when leading after eight innings; and the Dodgers wouldn’t be in the postseason without Manny. But the Cubs players and their fans are in the unique position of having a roster full of MVPs, one of only many reasons that “this is the year” for the Chicago Cubs.