The candidates:

Jimmy Rollins

Anyone who says the reigning MVP didn’t deserve the honor doesn’t understand the meaning of "MVP". J-Roll is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Phillies. He became the first player in history to have 30 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers and 30 steals in one season. He played great defense at a physically demanding position, appearing in all 162 games when the team was ravaged by injuries. Most importantly, Rollins led the Phillies on an exhilarating run to the NL East crown. Case closed.


It’s possible that Rollins had a career season, but people forget that he’s only 29 and in his prime.  There’s no reason why he can’t duplicate those numbers. Sure, we’d love to see our lead-off hitter take more pitches and raise his on-base percentage, but how much more can you ask for?


This award usually goes to the big time, power-hitting run producers, and Rollins still tends to be overshadowed by the two big time run producers on the other side of his own infield. He’s still the heart and soul of the Fightin’s, but it will take another historic season to put a second MVP trophy on Rollins’ mantle.


Ryan Howard

Following his MVP season (58 homers, 149 RBI, .313 batting average), Howard admitted that he got a little caught up in the awards dinner circuit and didn’t prepare for the season as well as he could have. Despite a horrible start, a two-week stint on the disabled list, a 45-point drop in batting average and a major league record 199 strikeouts, Howard still clobbered 47 homers with 136 RBI in 2007.


I expect a historic season from Howard. He came into camp lighter, loose and refocused. He won a $10 million arbitration settlement, which will ultimately lead to an astronomical long-term deal. Pat Burrell is in a contract year and could finally provide decent protection.


Howard hits opposite field home runs with a flick of the wrist. Pitch him inside and someone in the right field upper deck will have a souvenir. He can hit for average. If Howard stays healthy, I can’t see a scenario that doesn’t have Ryan Howard as a legit MVP contender.


Chase Utley

The best second baseman in the majors was on his way to a possible MVP award until a broken hand sidelined him for about a month and cut into his numbers. Utley still managed to hit .332 with 22 home runs, 48 doubles and 105 RBI.


Utley has a short, compact stroke that’s a little unorthodox but generates a lot of power. He’s one of those guys you can pencil in for a minimum of .300, 25 HR, 45 doubles, 100 RBI, and solid defense. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ryan Howard offers better protection than the Secret Service. I expect Chase Utley to be an annual MVP candidate for at least the next five years.


The great thing about this trio is that you can bring your kid to the game and say, “Play like these guys.” They hustle, have fun, and play with respect. As for MVP, my pick is Howard, to the tune of a .300 batting average, 60 homers, 150 RBI. He’s scary good.

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