The most intriguing of all the Baseball Writers' Association of America's awards gets handed out on Monday when the American League's Most Valuable Player is named.
If you want to go strictly by definition of the award, then Detroit's AL Cy Young Award Justin Verlander should win it hands down. Nobody was more valuable to their team this season than Verlander. But, there hasn't been a pitcher to take home this honor since Oakland's Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and there hasn't been a starting pitcher to do so since Boston's Roger Clemens in 1986.
Verlander, though, was sensational this season for the Tigers. as he became the 12th pitcher in the last 50 years to win pitching's Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250). He was the first AL pitcher to accomplish the feat since Johan Santana in '06 and the first Tigers hurler to do it since Hal Newhouser in 1945.
The 28-year-old flamethrower's 24 wins were the most in the league since Bob Welch won 27 for the 1990 Athletics. He also led AL pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opposing batting average and a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) ratio.
Verlander, who won his final 12 starts and was 14-1 within the American League Central for the division champion Tigers, also tossed a no-hitter and came close on several other occasions.
A lot of writers have long been reluctant to vote pitchers for MVP Awards, but Verlander may have just been so dominant this season and so important to the Tigers, that this is just a slam dunk.
Plus if it's not Verlander, then who is it?
You want to argue Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez? Go right ahead, but as hard as it may be for some voters to hand this award to a pitcher, how can they justify handing it out to a player from a team that was part of one of the most epic collapses in baseball history?
Of the two Red Sox, Ellsbury likely has the better chance, as the Red Sox' lead off man hit .321 with 212 hits, 32 homers, 105 RBI and a league-leading 364 total bases. He also stole 39 bases and has already been named the AL Comeback Player of the Year.
New York's Curtis Granderson was spectacular this year, belting a career-high 41 home runs to go along with AL highs of 119 RBI and 136 runs scored. However, he only hit .262 and struck out 169 times. But was he really any more important to the Yankees than second baseman Robinson Cano?
Cano was again sensational for the Yankees, as he hit .302 with 104 runs, 188 hits, 46 doubles, seven triples, 28 homers, had an .882 OPS, while driving in 118 runs for the AL East-champion Yankees.
Great numbers indeed, but nowhere near as dominant as Verlander.
Verlander's teammate Miguel Cabrera will also get some consideration. Cabrera led the league this season with a .344 average and also scored 111 runs, had 197 hits, 48 doubles, 30 homers, 105 RBI and a 1.033 OPS that was second only that of Toronto's Jose Bautista.
The thing that hurts Cabrera, though, is that he may be overlooked thanks to Verlander's marvelous campaign.
Speaking of Bautista, he is the one player who has flown under the radar, but may actually sneak in and grab this award. He was an animal for the Blue Jays this season, hitting 302 average to go along with an AL-best 43 homers, 105 runs scored and 103 RBI.
Bautista also walked 132 times and had a Major League-best OPS of 1.056.
But, the Jays were a fourth place team this season. And they would have been with or without Bautista.
THE SPORTS NETWORK PICK: JUSTIN VERLANDER, DETROIT