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In 2009, seems to be on a mission to claim what should have been his in 2008.
So far this year, Carlos has put his name right atop the AL MVP watch list in the early going by proving that not only is his wrist fully recovered, and that not only was last year far from a fluke, but that he is capable of being the youthful heart and soul of a talented, veteran-laden, championship-level ball club.
In 2008, Carlos Quentin hit .288 and slugged .571. He also jacked 36 bombs, knocked in 100, scored 96, and did it all in only 130 games. And any White Sox fan who followed the team last year will tell you that those numbers do not even begin to describe how valuable Quentin was to the White Sox. With the entire team mired in a horrible offensive slump to start the year, Quentin literally carried the club and kept it afloat (along with solid pitching). His home runs always seemed to be in clutch moments when the team needed a lift.
Now, about Quentin ... Yeah, man. The objective analysis would suggest that he's not likely to repeat his performance last season, because 1) he'd never really done anything like that before, at least not in the majors, and 2) an inordinate percentage of his fly balls last season carried the outfield wall, and even a slight regression there would negatively impact his power stats.
And finally, would Quentin really have been a shoo-in for the MVP if not for the wrist injury? I'm not at all sure about that. If Quentin hadn't missed any games, he would have led the league with more than 40 home runs. But he probably would not have batted .300, and he almost certainly would not have led the league in RBI. Quentin drove in 100 runs in 130 games; if he'd played the whole season, he still would have finished behind Josh Hamilton (130), Justin Morneau (129) and Miguel Cabrera (127). Hamilton and Cabrera disqualified themselves from serious MVP consideration by being stupid enough to play for losing teams. But Morneau played for a winning team, and it's highly likely that a fair number of MVP voters made up their minds before the White Sox beat Morneau's Twins in their one-game playoff for the division title.
But that brings us to the unknowable: How would the AL Central race have gone if Quentin hadn't hurt himself? It's tempting to suggest that the White Sox would have run away with it, but of course baseball doesn't work that way. Quentin might have had an off-month, or he might have just missed catching a couple of fly balls in clutch spots, costing the Sox a couple of wins.
Add it all up, and I think that all we can say is that Quentin, if he'd not missed all but one game in September, would have done better than fifth (his actual finish) in the MVP balloting. I think it's fair to say that he'd have done better than fourth, too. But would he have bested actual winner Dustin Pedroia and actual runner-up Morneau? Maybe.
Will Quentin win the award this year? That depends on him, but also on his teammates. Because MVP voters don't like losers.