Piazza is best choice for MVP

Greg MacDonald, Editorial Assistant
Greg MacDonald, Editorial Assistant

For the better part of the 1997 Major League Baseball season, the hype has been focused on two players who could finish with a .400 batting average and two players to challenge Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61. Of the two home run sluggers, Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey, Jr., only Junior has a chance of winning the Most Valuable Player award in the American League, since McGwire was traded to the National League.

However, in the National League, Larry Walker and Tony Gywnn have faded since flirting with a .400 batting average. Because of their slumps, the winner of the National League MVP becomes debatable.

Usually, the award goes to the player who has the most effect on his team. Gywnn’s San Diego Padres have dwelled in the bottom of the National League West for a good portion of the season, so the award will not likely go in his direction.

Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros has, as usual, been outstanding at first base. He is reliable on defense and always rocks 40 home runs and drives in 120 runs. But the Astros are barely going to finish the season above .500.

The Braves are a team without a player, aside from the pitching staff, who leads them to victory. The Atlanta team is a group which seems to have a different hero every night. The same can be said about the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants have a team this season whose sum is greater than its parts, so one single player cannot be singled out as the league’s MVP.

Walker, a favorite to win the MVP award, has been leading the National League in nearly every batting category. He has over 400 total bases, nearly 50 home runs, about a .370 batting average, 140 runs batted in. He has been the National League’s best player, but has he been the most valuable?

Walker’s Colorado Rockies have not been close to a playoff spot all year, and the Rockies probably would be in the same position in the standings if he was not in the line-up.

So who should be the MVP of the National League? Mike Piazza.

Piazza has been the catalyst on a Los Angeles Dodgers team that is, at best, sporadic. He has handled the league’s second best pitching staff, behind only Atlanta. And to Piazza’s credit, he has handled that pitching staff, comprised of five different cultures and languages, with great success.

Piazza also has emerged as the Dodgers’ team leader. For the first half of the 1997 baseball season, the Dodgers were a team suffering from a lack of chemistry. In the beginning of June, Piazza spoke out in the Los Angeles Times about the team needing to gain chemistry and to come together. After that article, the Dodgers went from eight games behind to three games up.

Piazza has done something this year that only one other player in history has done-hit a fair ball out of Dodger Stadium. Last Sunday, Piazza belted a pitch from the Rockies’ Frank Castillo, a 478-foot shot over the left field pavilion. He joined Willie Stargell as the only other player to accomplish the feat. Overall, Piazza is hitting .357, with 37 home runs and 116 RBI.

The most important player to a contending team should win the most valuable player award. If Walker was taken from the Rockies’ line-up, the Colorado team would be in the same position in the standings. But if Piazza was removed from the Dodgers’ line-up, Los Angeles would have a non-contending team.

Greg MacDonald, a sophomore communications major, is editorial assistant of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at gmacdona@ulv.edu.

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