Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken had the best season of his career in 1991, even better than the performance that earned him the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1983. But that doesn't necessarily mean that his second MVP award is a foregone conclusion.
The Orioles had a forgettable season, and that may have had an effect on the MVP voting, the results of which will be announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America today.
The Most Valuable Player in each league is selected by a committee composed of two beat writers from each city in that league. The ballots, which include space to rank 10 players in order of priority, were submitted before the start of postseason play.
The committee of 28 that voted in the American League was faced with a difficult choice. Ripken had the best all-around statistical season, but he did so for a sixth-place club. Detroit Tigers first baseman Cecil Fielder had the best run-production stats -- 44 home runs and 133 RBI -- and his team was in contention for much of the season.
The ballot guidelines instruct voters to consider a player's value to his team, both on offense and defense, but the concept of value is not clearly defined. It is left up to the voters to determine how much emphasis to place on the success of the team.
Ripken has been named Player of the Year by The Sporting News and The Associated Press, but the MVP award does not necessarily go to the player with the best individual stats.
Fielder was passed over last year, even though he became the first AL player to hit at least 50 home runs since 1961. The award went to Rickey Henderson, whose Oakland Athletics won their third straight AL pennant.
Ripken excelled in spite of the club, batting .323 with 210 hits, 34 home runs and 114 RBI. He led the major leagues in total bases, extra-base hits and multiple-hit games. He also led all AL shortstops in fielding percentage (.986), putouts (267), assists (529) and double plays (114), numbers almost certain to earn him his first Gold Glove when the game's most prestigious defensive awards are announced next week.
Other MVP candidates are the Toronto Blue Jays' Joe Carter and Chicago White Sox's Frank Thomas.