Wednesday July 7th, 2010

First basemen Albert Pujols of St. Louis and Miguel Cabrera of Detroit are perpetual MVP candidates, having received MVP votes seven years running and combining for 11 top five finishes in those 14 elections. There is one big difference between the two reliable sluggers: Pujols has won the vote three times and Cabrera not at all.

At midseason this year, Cabrera is on his way toward joining Pujols in the winner's circle. After 82 games, not only had Cabrera helped carry his Detroit Tigers to first place in the AL Central, he also held at least a share of the lead in all three triple crown categories. No player has won the triple crown -- leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs -- since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

With Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer showing less power this year, and Cabrera having cleaned up his life after alcohol rehabilitation last winter, there is no doubt about the two best hitters in baseball - or the two MVPs. The managers will tell you; Pujols and Cabrera each lead their league in intentional walks.

Pujols' run for a third straight MVP and Cabrera's chase of the triple crown are the major storylines of the midseason major awards, but there are unusually deep fields in contention for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards. It's time for the midseason envelopes:

American League

1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

2. Justin Morneau, Minnesota

3. Robinson Cano, New York

4. Josh Hamilton, Texas

5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay

6. Kevin Youkilis, Boston

7. Paul Konerko, Chicago

8. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles

9. Adrian Beltre, Boston

10. Mariano Rivera, New York

The top four are all great candidates. Cabrera gets the edge because of his power and consistency. He has been kept off base only seven games all year -- and never two games in a row.

National League

1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis

2. David Wright, New York

3. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego

4. Joey Votto, Cincinnati

5. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles

6. Scott Rolen, Cincinnati

7. Martin Prado, Atlanta

8. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado

9. Colby Rasmus, St. Louis

10. Jayson Werth, Philadelphia

Why not just call it the Pujols Award? He's the surest thing in baseball, and does it at an elite level.

American League

1. Jon Lester, Boston

2. David Price, Tampa Bay

3. Cliff Lee, Seattle

4. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles

5. Andy Pettitte, New York

Lester has the most strikeouts and innings among the top three in what is a very close race.

National League

1. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado

2. Josh Johnson, Florida

3. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia

4. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis

5. Mat Latos, San Diego

It's a good thing the baseball writers expanded the ballot from three names to five. (The Carpenter Rule, after St. Louis' Chris Carpenter was left off two ballots last year.) And Jimenez has more than these other four bearing down on him.

American League

1. Brennan Boesch, Detroit

2. Austin Jackson, Detroit

3. Neftali Feliz, Texas

An easy call -- and Jackson and Feliz have been terrific. Boesch has been that good.

National League

1. Jason Heyward, Atlanta

2. Jaime Garcia, St. Louis

3. Tyler Colvin, Chicago

Heyward, limited by a thumb injury for almost a month now, still leads what is an impressive field that also includes Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez and Mike Leake.

American League

1. Terry Francona, Boston

2. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles

3. Ozzie Guillen, Chicago

Francona has done an amazing job working around so many injuries, including his entire outfield. Every day is a challenge as far as putting together a lineup.

National League

1. Bud Black, San Diego

2. Bobby Cox, Atlanta

3. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati

Black has one of the worst offenses in the league, including an outfield with almost no power, but keeps winning by World Cup scores.

SHEEHAN: Five bold predictions for the second half

LEMIRE: Top storylines of the first, second half

CORCORAN: X-factors for the second half

GALLERY: Best moments from the first half

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