After missing 16 games with a fracture in his right hand, Martin Prado returned to the Braves’ lineup Tuesday night and led the team with three hits, three runs scored, a double and two RBI.
“Don’t you just want to punch him right in the stomach?” cracked teammate Matt Diaz.
Here’s another thought: How about just handing him an MVP trophy?
There’s little question that Prado is the Braves’ most valuable player. When he returned from the disabled list with a fracture in his right pinkie and led the Braves in their 10-2 victory over the Washington Nationals, he started at third base (vacated by the injured Chipper Jones) and batted third (also Jones’ spot). The significance was kind of obvious.
If this guy doesn’t get consideration for National League Most Valuable Player honors, something is wrong. Should Prado continue to hit at his normal pace, he’ll still have good chance to lead the National League in hits and win the batting title, despite missing 16 games. If he continues to bat third, he’ll certainly have a chance to significantly add to his RBI total (though he won’t likely crack the top 10).
Unfortunately, MVP voters seldom factor defense and versatility into the voting. But no player is more valuable to his team than Prado is to the Braves. The favorites for the award are probably are St. Louis’s Albert Pujols (.315, 30 homers, 86 RBI) and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (.322, 28, 79). Prado is at .318, 13 homers and 45 RBIs.
“For me, you should throw a guy like into the MVP voting because of his defense and his hitting, and I know what he means to us,” manager Bobby Cox said. “But they’re looking for a guy with 45 homers and 140 RBIs and [hitting] .320. But I know he’s our MVP.”
Told of Cox’s comments, Prado said, “That’s not something I think about. I’m just happy we won and I could get a few hits.”
His hand still hurts. Prado jammed his finger in his final at-bat and he expects it to be sore “for a couple of weeks.” He was worn out after the game but you wouldn’t know it by the numbers. After a ground out and a fly out in his first two at-bats, he strung together three straight hits: an RBI double in the sixth, a run-scoring single in the seventh and another single in the eighth, scoring all three times.
“I’m tired,” he said. “My body is falling apart. I felt like I could keep myself in shape. I was running, taking ground balls. I knew I would be out two weeks so I was trying to do something. But a game is different. A couple of games and hopefully I’ll get used to it.”
Yeah. Like he’s a slacker now.
Here are a few more post-game comments on Prado.
♦ Diaz: “He said, ‘Don’t expect me to look like Chipper.’ We don’t. He’s much better looking than Chipper. Seriously, I don’t think anybody expected anything less from him. He goes on a rehab assignment [in Gwinnett] and gets a hit his first time out. He raises the bar so high.”
♦ Batting coach Terry Pendleton: “The guy can just flat out hit. Even when he was out, he did whatever he could do with one hand just to keep active.”
♦ Catcher Brian McCann: “He’s got one of the best swings you’ll ever come across. His bat stays in the zone for so long that he can handle so many different pitches. He could wake up Christmas morning and get two hits.”
Should he be given MVP consideration?
“Absolutely,” McCann said. “We’re not where we are without him. He’s definitely been our MVP.”
So what are your thoughts? Is Prado an MVP candidate?
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