O.K., it’s doubtful that Justin Verlander could only lay such a claim beyond Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and perhaps some pockets of Windsor, Ontario. But he is most certainly the new king of the American League after first winning the AL Cy Young Award last week and today being named the AL MVP.
Verlander becomes the first pitcher to win the AL MVP since Dennis Eckersley did it with the Oakland Athletics in 1992. He also becomes the first starter to be so honored since Roger Clemens in 1986 when he wore a Boston Red Sox uniform. Clemens beat out New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly that season and after that there was something of a backlash against pitchers winning the AL MVP (with the notable exception of Eckersley.) A couple of months ago, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume noted that two members of the BBWAA left then Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez off the ballot in the vote for the 1999 AL MVP which went to Ivan Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers despite that fact he did his very best pitching during the steroids era.
Unless the BBWAA renders pitchers ineligible for consideration then pitchers have every right to stake a claim as their league’s MVP. In 2011, no player in the American League was more valuable than Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers.