- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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With just seven weeks left in the baseball season, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is making a case for MVP honors.
Normally the smart money is on a position player who puts up 40 home runs and 115 RBIs to be the eventual winner. This season, the list of top players in the American League is short, with Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout leading the way.
The 21-year-old Trout is leading the league in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases, the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton is the home run and RBI leader and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is a legit triple crown threat, but none of the three had bigger or more productive hits then the White Sox catcher.
Pierzynski's 23 home runs and 67 RBIs only offer a sample size of what he has done to keep the first place Sox on top of the division this season.
"A.J. is at the ballpark working out early every day," backup catcher Tyler Flowers said. "He has been a great example to me the way he prepares himself doing his cardio work and yoga both before and after games. I have learned a lot from him."
Pierzynski's task of working with as many as eight rookies or first-year pitchers is another reason to consider him for top player honors. The 36-year-old catcher has helped the young staff grow through some very tough situations.
Still, Pierzynski never seems satisfied with what at this point is way beyond a career year for him.
"You can always be better," Pierzynski said. "You always look back and say, ‘I could have done this or that a little better.' At the end of the day you try to do the best you can, you can't really worry about the numbers. At the end of the year the numbers will be what they should be."
With free agent status waiting for him in November, Pierzynski's career year couldn't have come at a better time. He is finishing a two-year $8 million deal he signed with the White Sox at the winter meetings in December 2010.
The fiery catcher should have been an All-Star in 2012, however baseball politics cost him his opportunity. Being known as the most detested man in the game by opponents has really been a badge of courage and an added chip on Pierzynski's shoulder.
How he is viewed by the media members who vote for the MVP will help define his chances to win the award.
A.J. Pierzynski is playing like an AL MVP contender this season.