If you ask White Sox fans to choose their MVP for the first half of the season, you'll undoubtedly get many different opinions.
There's Paul Konerko, who had the torrid start; Chris Sale, who might very well have established himself in the top tier of major league pitchers; Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, who have done 180s from their 2011 performances; Alejandro De Aza, who has been splendid in the leadoff spot; and A.J. Pierzynski, who is enjoying a career year. You could also throw in Jake Peavy and Addison Reed to the mix for good measure.
I've thought long and hard about who I would choose. For his leadership, durability, edge, and production on the field, I'm going with Pierzynski.
With apologies to the late sportscaster Howard Cosell, A.J. is the man everybody but the Sox loves to hate. His attitude rubs opponents and their fans the wrong way, he's always in the middle of controversial plays (See Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS for details) and he does everything he can to provoke the team he's playing against in the name of winning. He's just one of those guys who you love when he plays for you, but hate when he's on the other side.
Now 35 and in his 15th major league season, Pierzynski has had a remarkable first half. His 16 homers is only two shy of his career high of 18. His 49 RBIs puts him in a position to easily surpass his career mark of 77. His .288 average is just above his career high of .285. And thanks largely to improvements by the Sox pitching staff, he's done a much better job nailing would-be basestealers. The best part is that he plays with fire in his belly that has to rub off on his teammates.
Because the All-Star selection process is primarily a popularity contest, A.J. won't be in Kansas City with Konerko, Dunn and Sale. And even though you may disagree with me about the club's MVP, there's no doubt A.J. is playing at an All-Star level.
As a result of their current four-game winning streak, including last night's 4-2 win over the Blue Jays, The Sox are now three games ahead of the Indians in the A.L. Central. I contend their standing would be much different without Pierzynski, my first-half Sox Most Valuable Player.