The great AL MVP debate

Updated: November 21, 2011, 10:00 AM ET
By Buster Olney

If you are looking for precedents for the AL Most Valuable Player Award voting, maybe the best could be drawn from the 1876 presidential election, when there was no consensus and the guy who won the popular vote wound up losing. Thankfully, federal troops will not be involved in the resolution of today's MVP decision.

But the arguments will go on long past 2 p.m., when the voting results will be announced. It's possible that Justin Verlander will get the most first-place votes and still lose, because some voters have chosen to keep him off their ballots entirely. Jose Bautista had the best offensive numbers of any AL player, and yet he may lose because the Toronto Blue Jays were never in contention -- a dynamic which reignited the conversation about what actually defines "most valuable." Miguel Cabrera was the most consistent force for the Detroit Tigers. Curtis Granderson had big-time production, with 136 runs and 119 RBIs, but by season's end, there was debate about whether Granderson was the MVP on his own team, over Robinson Cano.

And the Boston Red Sox had a trio of MVP candidates all year, from Dustin Pedroia to Adrian Gonzalez to Jacoby Ellsbury, and they all were in the lineup as Boston suffered the greatest September collapse in baseball history.

The guess here is that Verlander will get the most first-place votes, but because of how splintered the voting figures to be, the key will be holding down one of the top three spots on as many ballots as possible. And it figures that Bautista and Ellsbury will be ranked No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 on almost all the ballots, and will wind up being the Rutherford B. Hayes of the 2011 AL MVP voting.