In 2010, Josh Hamilton was not only the best player in the American League, but the best player in baseball.
Thus, Hamilton being named as the American League's Most Valuable Player was the only logical outcome. There was substantial competition, and there have been times when "best" has not equaled "most valuable" but here, there was little doubt.
Hamilton was a primary reason for the Rangers' breakthrough season. He led the Majors in batting with a .359 average while finishing with 95 runs scored, 40 doubles, three triples, 32 home runs and 100 RBIs. He also led the Majors with a .633 slugging percentage and was fourth in on-base percentage at .411.
In the results of the Baseball Writers' Association of America balloting announced on Tuesday, Hamilton was an overwhelming choice, receiving 22 of 28 possible first-place votes. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers received five first-place votes and finished second. Robinson Cano of the Yankees received no first-place votes, but finished third. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays received one first-place vote and finished fourth overall.
Those three other candidates all had seasons that made them legitimate contenders for this award. But they didn't have Josh Hamilton's season. The voters did not penalize Hamilton for missing nearly all of September with two small fractures in his rib cage. Hamilton, a superior center fielder, suffered the injury running into a wall.
Hamilton played in 133 games, but 2009 AL MVP, Joe Mauer of the Twins, had played in 138 after missing substantial time early in the season with an injury. The voters are clearly interested in quality more than quantity when contemplating this award. And the stature of the opposition made Hamilton's victory even more impressive.
Cabrera led the Major Leagues with 126 RBIs and had 38 home runs while hitting .328. There is no doubting his value. But the voters are increasingly equating the "most valuable" aspect of this award with team success. Since 1991, only one player has won an MVP while playing for a team that finished .500 or worse. That was Alex Rodriguez in 2003 with the Rangers.
This trend was clearly visible in the NL voting for MVP as well, when Cincinnati's Joey Votto scored an overwhelming victory over the Cardinals' Albert Pujols. Their numbers were comparable in many instances, but Votto played for a division winner and a team that had a breakthrough season. Pujols played for a team that had been favored to win the NL Central, but finished second.
In the case of Cano, we have a real rarity -- a Yankee who is underrated. It was surprising that he received no first-place votes in this competition. His credentials were impeccable -- .319 batting average, 29 home runs, 109 RBIs, and superior defensively at second base. But Cano's public profile is overshadowed by that of some of his teammates. It is distinctly possible, as reflected in this balloting, that he has not received due credit for his integral role in the Yankees' success.
Bautista's 54 home runs made him the season's biggest and best offensive surprise. He has received a Silver Slugger Award, as well as the Hank Aaron Award, and good for him. But for overall impact, the MVP still had to be Josh Hamilton.
MVP or not, Hamilton is one of baseball's best stories of any season, coming back from the depths of substance abuse to become a genuine star. But that is not why he wins this award. He is a legitimate five-tool player and now at age 29 he is playing at the lofty level that those skills encompass.
You do not have to be a Rangers fan to appreciate the greatness that this player has achieved. His talent is one-of-a-kind and his play has become nothing less than inspirational. With all due respect to a field of legitimate MVP competitors, when you heard that Josh Hamilton won the AL MVP, the response was roughly two words: Of course.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.