A player's true value is measured in wins

Originally Published: September 11, 2006
ESPN.com

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

Ryan Howard had the day off on Monday, so he can't steal the headlines from the rest of the NL's MVP candidates. Howard has been carrying the Phillies, yet the door remains slightly ajar for others. The reason? His team isn't winning at a high enough rate.

The MVP decision may come down to whether or not Philadelphia makes the postseason. If the Phillies fall short, there are plenty of legitimate contenders who could make a good argument that their value is greater. In the end, victories are the ultimate measurement of success.

BEST NL MVP ARGUMENTS
Candidate Skinny
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies A .559 batting average, seven home runs and 10 RBI in his first 10 September games, as well as the potential for the eighth .300-50-150 season in baseball history make Howard the favorite at this point. The problem is that the Phillies are just 5-5 in that span. What also might hurt is Pat Burrell's struggles. As long as Burrell continues on what's now a 1-18 funk, Howard is going to get the Barry Bonds treatment, being walked in just about every situation where he could do damage.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals If Howard falters in the last few weeks, Pujols will eclipse him. Despite missing two weeks due to injury, Pujols should end up far surpassing his career highs of 46 home runs and 127 RBI. The reputation as baseball's best clutch hitter (he entered the week hitting .383 with runners in scoring position and .333 in late-inning pressure situations) can only help his case.
Carlos Beltran, CF, Mets Beltran is the best player on the NL's best team and enters the week leading the league in runs scored. He's also the best road player in baseball, entering this week's six-game swing with a .342 batting average, 24 home runs and 75 RBI in 62 road games. That the Mets have been among baseball's best road teams this season has been one of the biggest keys to their success.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros Berkman will need a huge surge to push the Astros into the postseason and have any chance, but his numbers actually stack up pretty well. He's off to a good start in September, with a .367 batting average, three home runs and nine RBI entering the week. Berkman has a history of late-season success, particularly in 2005, when he helped Houston reach the postseason by hitting .319 with 11 home runs and 27 RBI that month.

ELIAS SAYS
• Marlins rookies hit five home runs Monday night. It was the first time in major league history that a team had as many as five home runs in a game from rookies. The previous record was four home runs in a game from rookies, done many times, most recently on July 24, 1999 when the Red Sox had three home runs by Trot Nixon and one by Brian Daubach.

• Frank Thomas hit a home run for the sixth consecutive game, making him the fourth player to hit a home run in six straight games this season, joining Kevin Mench (seven straight in April), Morgan Ensberg (six in April) and Jason Bay (six in May). The only other season in major league history in which there was more than one streak of homers in six straight games was 2001 when there were three such streaks (Barry Bonds twice and Jose Cruz Jr.).

• Bobby Jenks recorded his 40th save of the season in the White Sox's win over the Angels. Jenks, who was a rookie last year, is the third pitcher to notch at least 40 saves in either his first or second season in the major leagues. Kaz Sasaki had 45 saves in his sophomore year, 2001, and Chad Cordero had 47 saves last year, his second season.

More from Elias Says

NEWS AND NOTES
Francisco Liriano • The Twins on Monday activated rookie phenom Francisco Liriano from the 15-day disabled list. Liriano, who has drawn comparisons to 2004 Cy Young Award winner and teammate Johan Santana, has taken the American League by storm this season, going 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA. However, he has been on the DL since Aug. 8 with a strained ligament in his left elbow. The 22-year-old left-hander is expected to start Wednesday against the A's.

• David Ortiz, the American League leader in home runs and RBI, says Boston's fall from the AL playoff race should not disqualify him from the race for the MVP award. But Ortiz told reporters after the Red Sox's 9-3 win over the Royals on Sunday that he thinks that's what's going to happen. "I'll tell you one thing," Ortiz said. "If I get 50 home runs and 10 more RBI [which would give him 137], that's going to be a round number that no one else in the American League will have. But they'll vote for a position player, use that as an excuse."

• Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen received a cortisone shot for his ailing hip on Monday, and St. Louis said he won't be used until the weekend. Isringhausen has not pitched since last Wednesday, when he blew his career-high 10th save in 43 chances. After giving up two runs in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss at Washington, he said the hip had been bothering him.

• The Yankees are not taking any chances on the health of players that could take them deep into October. According to MLB.com, Mariano Rivera will not pitch off a mound for at least a week as he works his way back from a muscle strain near his right elbow.

RISING UP
Twins top A's, move closer to idle Tigers.
NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
GOOD
Cody Ross tied Florida records with three home runs and seven RBI in the Marlins' 16-5 win over the Mets. Ross, who entered the game with nine homers this season, hit a three-run shot in the first inning, then added two-run homers in the sixth and seventh. He tied Mike Lowell's franchise mark for homers in a game and became the third Marlin to have seven RBI -- the first since Gary Sheffield in 1995. Ross finished with four hits as the Fish moved within two games of idle San Diego in the NL wild-card race.
BAD
John Smoltz lasted just two-plus innings -- his second-shortest outing of the season -- as the Braves lost to the Cubs 8-3. Smoltz allowed six runs on six hits (including two home runs) and lost his third game in a row. For much of the season, the 39-year-old right-hander was the one who prevented the struggling Braves from falling into a long losing streak. But his last three starts have all halted winning streaks.
UGLY
Orioles rookie James Hoey had a forgettable outing in Baltimore's 9-6 loss to the Yankees. Hoey (0-1) gave up six runs and four hits, walking one and hitting two batters in 2/3 innings.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Chris Carpenter shut out the Astros to lower his NL-leading ERA to 2.84.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I think in a mediocre division, their mediocre starting pitching might end up to be their Achilles' heel. They just don't have much after their second or third starter."
-- A West Coast-based scout, in the Los Angeles Times, on the Dodgers
FORWARD THINKING: TUESDAY
Kenny RogersRangers at Tigers, 7:05 ET: After going 3-1 with a 3.34 ERA in August, Vicente Padilla (13-9, 4.52) is having a rough September. He has allowed 12 earned runs over 11 innings in two starts this month. With their AL Central lead dwindling, the Tigers hope Kenny Rogers (15-6, 3.91) can turn things around. The Gambler is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last three appearances.

Padres at Reds, 7:05 ET: San Diego leads the NL wild-card race, so this is a do-or-die series for Cincinnati. Chris Young (10-5, 3.71) ranks fifth in the NL in winning percentage and has recovered from the sinus infection that hampered him during his last start. Eric Milton (8-7, 4.95) hasn't fared well at home. In 13 starts at Great American Ball Park, he is 3-6 with a 5.30 ERA and has surrendered 15 home runs.

Jonathan SanchezRockies at Giants, 10:15 ET: Colorado is playing for pride as San Francisco looks to stay in the hunt for October. Denny Bautista (0-2, 5.66) makes his Rockies debut. Jonathan Sanchez (3-0, 1.42) will likely be a fixture in the Giants' rotation for years to come. He allowed only one run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings in his last outing (his first career start), and opponents are hitting only .189 against him on the season.

Tuesday's probable starters