No position player has been selected league most valuable player after appearing in fewer than 116 games in a nonstrike season. But by the time voters begin casting their ballots at the end of this season, the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez may be worthy of consideration.
Because of two stints on the disabled list because of athumb injury and a pulled hamstring, Ramirez will probably appear in about 100 games this summer, provided he is not injured again. And if he maintains his current pace, he'll finish with 22 home runs, 74 runs batted in and an MVP-worthy .370 batting average and .663 slugging percentage.
That's a big "if," of course. But then those statistics aren't key to Ramirez's MVP candidacy anyway. The number that best makes the case for Ramirez's value is the Dodgers' .750 winning percentage since he returned to the starting lineup full time. That has taken them from the National League West cellar to a 31/2-game division lead.
"When we got Hanley back, then we took off," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.
Manager Don Mattingly, a former American League MVP with the New York Yankees, isn't sure he buys the logic.
"He's definitely been valuable. But you can't give it all to Hanley," he said. "It takes a crew. And Hanley's been huge. I can't imagine what we'd look like without him.
"But you can't really imagine where we'd be without Adrian either."
Starting pitchers, who can influence a team's performance only once every five days, have won MVP awards appearing in far fewer games than Ramirez, even though the rules guiding MVP voters include admonitions to consider the "actual value of a player to his team" as well as the "number of games played." Among position players, though, the fewest appearances for an MVP in a nonstrike year was 116 by catcher Gabby Hartnett in 1935, when he hit .344 with 91 RBIs to lead the Chicago Cubs to the World Series.
Given that, it's unlikely 100 games will be enough for Ramirez to win the award. But in a season in which no NL player has dominated statistically the way Miguel Cabrera has in the American League, Ramirez's "actual value … to his team" is certainly worthy of recognition.
Tigers plan ahead for Jhonny Peralta's absence
The knowledge that Jhonny Peralta was about to be suspended for violating baseball's drug policy influenced the Detroit Tigers to give up their quest for a pitcher and settle instead on a trade for Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias a few hours before Wednesday's nonwaiver trade deadline.
Peralta, whose name surfaced in the probe of Biogenesis, the South Florida wellness clinic that allegedly dispensed performance-enhancing drugs to as many as 20 players, could be out until the playoffs or longer. His suspension and those of at least eight other players are expected to be announced at any time.
But the Tigers couldn't wait, pushing through a three-team, seven-player deal that also sent right-hander Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox to Boston. Not so lucky were the Texas Rangers, who were unable to find a replacement for right fielder Nelson Cruz, the team leader in home runs and RBIs. Cruz is also expected to get a lengthy suspension.