Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kenny Rogers, American League MVP? How about the Cy Young?

I wanted to say something about the suddenly surging (Can you call 4 out of 6 a surge?), and likely playoff bound, Tigers. Last night's beatdown of the White Sox was another HUGE win in what has been a great, great season.

Now the Tigers are on the verge of shutting the playoff door on the White Sox. They are still 1.5 games up on the hotter than Hades Twins. Amazingly, despite injuries to front line players, prolonged slumps, and playing in the best division in baseball, the Tigers remain in 1st. They hold their own playoff destiny, unkike the Twins and Sox. There's one reason, and one reason only, the Tigers are still in control of that destiny. That reason is actually a player. A player none of us thought would be so damn good.

The Gambler, Kenny Rogers.

Kenny Rogers has saved the Tigers' collective ass this season, last night just being the latest example. So that begs the question. Do the Tigers have a legitimate MVP or Cy Young candidate? Throughout the season, there has been all kinds of AL MVP and Cy Young talk. But the one constant most everyone had agreed upon was that the Tigers were making their run without a true candidate for either award. Turns out, the talk was wrong.

As the season as gone on, it's become clear, to me anyway, that Kenny Rogers has been the Tigers MVP. So why shouldn't he get some love in the AL MVP race? If not that, what about the Cy Young? Everone expected Rogers to fold like a cheap card table after the break. Save for a few starts after the All-Star game, which he started, by the way, Rogers has been money all season long. Just ask the White Sox...

Has there been a player more valuable, more important, a more stabilizing influence to his team than The Gambler? Without Rogers, the Tigers could have dropped out of first place. Without Rogers at the top of the rotation, the Tigers don't have a true number 1 starter. Without Rogers, the young starters may not have progressed as quickly. Without Rogers, the pitching load would have been carried by young arms that probably weren't ready for that kind of pressure. Without Rogers, the Tigers aren't a playoff team.

Rogers' resume is looking more and more impressive as the regular season comes to an end. The Gambler is 16-6, and the Tigers are 23-8 in his starts. Speaking of that, he hasn't missed a single start. He's a Gold Glove caliber fielder. Rogers also held the staff together during the August swoon.

Jeremy Bonderman has struggled mightily in the 2nd half. As great as Justin Verlander has been, and at his best he may have been the best in all of baseball, he's become somewhat inconsistent. He's now in uncharted territory, innings-wise. Nate Robertson has pitched very well, but just couldn't get the wins. But Rogers? He became the stopper the Tigers have long needed. When the Tigers absolutely had to have a win, The Gambler got it. Again, just ask the White Sox...

The Tigers' pitching is the clearcut reason they are in playoff contention. Who is the unquestioned leader of that staff? The Gambler, without question. That should win you something... Think about it. Kirk Gibson won an MVP award with stats that aren't as good as Rogers. So why not The Gambler?

Will Kenny Rogers win the MVP? No. The Cy Young? No. But is it a big stretch to think that he should be at least considered? Not at all. The team that could still end up with the best record in MLB deserves to get some award love, other than the "Rookie of the Year" award that Verlander has all but locked up.

Kenny Rogers deserves a little recognition for what, when you factor in how important his contributions have been to the Tigers' season overall, may be his career year. At the very least, the MSM should name The Gambler "Tiger of the Year."

Kenny Rogers, TWFE salutes you.

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