A Phillies 3 Peat?

Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols battle for the NL MVP

After finishing runner-up to Ryan Howard in the 2006 MVP voting, Albert Pujols went on a tirade.

"Someone who doesn't take his team to the playoffs doesn't deserve to win the MVP," Pujols snapped in a press conference after Howard received the honors.

Pujols carried a battered St. Louis Cardinals team to a World Series title that season while Howard and the Phillies missed the playoffs for the 12th straight time.

Today, two years removed from that race, Howard and Pujols look to be the National League favorites for the award, again.And if Pujols' words hold true, the outcome will be the same, again.

This time around Pujols and the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs, finishing fourth in the NL Central, while Howard's bat knocked the Phillies straight to the playoffs and a World Series Championship.

Unfortunately a title will not play in any one players favor Monday when the Baseball Writers Association of America announce it's annual MVP decision at 2 p.m. -- The voting was conducted before the postseason.

At the start of this season most Phillies fans were favoring Chase Utley to become the third straight Phillie to win the award after Howard in 2006 and Jimmy Rollins in 2007 captured MVP honors.

Utley started off the season on fire, an apparent MVP shoe-in after the first two months of the season, but it was Howard who torched NL pitchers down the home stretch.

Halfway through the season Howard appeared to be a write-off on the ballots. He slumped heavily with his batting average hovering around sub-polar temperatures. But as the temperature heated up, so did his bat.

In September Howard hit a sizzling .352 with 11 home runs and a Phillies record 32 September RBI propelling Philadelphia to its second consecutive NL East championship.

Steven Spielberg couldn't even direct something that over-the-top.

Howard went on to lead the majors with his 48 home runs and 145 RBI. It's only the third time in franchise history a player has done so -- Howard did it in '06 and Mike Schmidt was the other back in 1981.

Howard also scored 105 runs becoming only the 33rd player baseball history to record at least 45, 145, 105 in a season -- the last was when Albert Belle did it with the Cleveland Indians in 1996. Belle came in third in the MVP voting.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pujols' numbers were as towering as the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Pujols blew Howard out of the water with his .357 batting average compare to Howard’s sub par .251. He also had a major league-leading .653 slugging percentage.

In a recent informal poll selected MVP voters were split down the middle between the two.

If Howard takes home the hardware he will hold the lowest batting average for an MVP winner since Marty Marion hit .267 in 1944.

History though, seems to be on Howard’s side. Of the 33 times that a player has led the majors in both home runs and RBI, that player has been the league's MVP 21 of those seasons. In 2006 Howard was one of those winners.

From a numbers standpoint, both players are equally deserving of the award. Each should be all smiles about their chances of an MVP but after today Pujols might find his foot in his mouth.

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