Which player is Cubs' MVP in 2008?
Many worthy candidates, but team goes for Soto or DeRosa
NEW YORK -- Who's the Cubs' MVP?
"Where do you start with it?" Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Wednesday when asked. "You've got so many people who have played well and so many people who have pitched well. You can build a case for a whole lot of guys."
OK, so who would you vote for?
"Wow -- do I have to?" Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis said. "There are a lot of guys with similar numbers -- 20 home runs, .290 [batting average], 80 RBIs. You've got five guys with 10-plus wins. [Carlos] Marmol and Kerry [Wood] at the back of the bullpen, too -- it's really tough. For the bulk of the season, this has been a 25-man effort. Everybody's contributed."
When pressed, though, Marquis gave rookie catcher Geovany Soto the nod.
"I've got to give Soto credit, mostly because he's a young guy coming into his own and handling a veteran pitching staff," Marquis said. "For him to do what he's doing, he's a big part of it. Not to take away from anybody, but a rookie with 20-something home runs, 90 RBIs, catching, that's a tough duty for anybody. He's not scared of big situations, not scared to learn and not scared to make mistakes."
Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly commended Soto for his feel for the game. There was a recent start, for example, when Lilly had thrown a fastball and the batter fouled it off. As Lilly got the ball back and was walking around the mound, he was thinking about how he wanted to throw a changeup next. Lilly hadn't thrown one for about four innings, though.
What sign did Soto put down? Changeup, Lilly said.
"When he put that down, I was kind of shocked," Lilly said.
The same thing happened with Wood. In the Sept. 18 game against Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in the 11th inning, Wood had thrown nothing but fastballs.
"I had thrown one curveball this year, and I had called him out before that to say I wanted to throw a curveball," Wood said.
And that was two months ago.
Against Braun, the count was 1-2. Wood had never thrown a curve to Braun, but he thought about it. What was the first sign Soto put down?
"It was a curve," Wood said.
And Wood got Braun out, swinging.
"That's something you don't teach," Lilly said. "You have to have pretty good instincts for the game."
Kosuke Fukudome picked co-MVPs in Marmol and Aramis Ramirez. Henry Blanco also wanted co-winners, and he selected Soto and Mark DeRosa.
"They've been big parts of the lineup and made a big difference," Blanco said. "[Soto] because of what he's done with the pitchers, and DeRo because he's played everywhere."
DeRosa's versatility got Ryan Theriot's vote.
"Just because he's played everywhere, he never complains and he's had the best year in his career," Theriot said of the most versatile Cubs player.
But the shortstop then thought about the roster, and he couldn't pick just one.
"Marmol, [Ryan] Dempster, [Alfonso Soriano] in the limited time he's been out there -- they all qualify," Theriot said. "I'd have to say 'DeRo' and 'Geo' right behind him."
Reed Johnson also gave DeRosa the edge.
"Just because you can move him all over the place," Johnson said. "He's able to give guys days off or if guys are hurt, he can fill in those positions. Having a player like that like a Chone Figgins in Anaheim makes the manager's job a lot easier to do.
"You could have co-MVPs or three guys. That's my thoughts -- and [DeRosa] paid me to say that, too."
He was kidding on the last comment, folks.
"You could go with Dempster, you could go with Ramirez, you could go with Soto," Wood said. "For the job at hand, I'd say Soto, just for the offensive numbers and the way he's handled the staff. He's got a little extra to do than play defense and offense. He's got to be locked in on every hitter and handle the pitching staff and call the game. It's tough."
So many MVPs.
"It's a good problem to have," Wood said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.