HOUSTON -- In the heat of playoff races, the Most Valuable Player Award is the last thing on players' minds."Only thing that would mean is we probably made the playoffs," D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "So that would have some meaning. Beyond that, it's not something that's on my
HOUSTON -- In the heat of playoff races, the Most Valuable Player Award is the last thing on players' minds.
"Only thing that would mean is we probably made the playoffs," D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "So that would have some meaning. Beyond that, it's not something that's on my mind at all."
Down the hallway in the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve strikes a similar tone.
"We're in first place, and that's more important," Altuve said. "I want to go to the World Series. That's what matters."
Nevertheless, Goldschmidt and Altuve could be the front-runners for the National League MVP Award and the American League MVP Award.
Entering Wednesday, Altuve led the AL in Wins Above Replacement (6.2), while Goldschmidt led the NL (5.5).
Both names are dotted across the leaderboards. Altuve appears to be on his way to a third batting title, and could be the second player ever to lead his league in hits four straight seasons (Ichiro Suzuki led the AL in hits every year from 2006-10). Only Yankees rookie Aaron Judge (1.029) had a higher OPS than Altuve (.995) entering Wednesday.
Goldschmidt is on pace for a 38-homer, 38-double season. He entered Wednesday third in the NL in RBIs (93), walks (79) and OPS (1.033).
Neither player is close to locking anything up. Red Sox ace Chris Sale has a 7.4 WAR and could sweep both the AL MVP Award and the AL Cy Young Award. Judge, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts are among other players in the mix.
Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (5.2 WAR), Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5.0) and Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton (4.5) are among the players in the NL mix.
"His ability to execute at crucial times is something we all take for granted here," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said of Goldschmidt. "I have to step back and realize that I'm getting a chance to manage one of the best players in the National League, if not the best player in the National League.
"You don't really know how to appreciate him until you see him every single day from dugout level. There's nothing he's not good at -- professionally and personally."
This week's Interleague series between Goldschmidt's D-backs and Altuve's Astros offers a chance to see the probable front-runners in one ballpark at the same time.
They are similar in this simple way: Both are complete players. They are both praised effusively by teammates for their physical gifts and their relentless work ethics.
"He wants to be good at everything," Arizona center fielder A.J. Pollock said of Goldschmidt. "His discipline is unmatched."
Likewise, Astros pitcher Collin McHugh said of Altuve: "He's just a great teammate. He really is. He sets a good example. He works really hard.
"It helps when you're hitting .360, and it feels like you're getting hits every day," McHugh said. "But he's just an upbeat guy, and that's something every team needs."
Another thing that unites Altuve and Goldschmidt is overcoming plenty of people who didn't think they'd get to this point.
Altuve was rejected by several teams, including Houston, at tryout camps in his native Venezuela. He kept showing up, though, and eventually, the Astros offered him a contract, which turned out to be one of the smartest decisions the franchise has ever made.
"Everybody doubted me early in my career," Altuve said. "I want people to learn you don't say no to someone just because he's small or whatever. I hope they look at me and see that."
Goldschmidt knows the feeling. There were 245 players taken before him in the 2009 Draft. Four years later, Goldschmidt led the NL with 36 home runs and finished second in NL MVP Award voting.
"That's not a motivation for me," Goldschmidt said. "I just try and do what I can. I don't need any more motivation. We've got a great team, and you want to do your part."
Like a lot of great players, Altuve and Goldschmidt are fans of each other from afar.
"He's a superstar," Altuve said. "You don't want him to get the important at-bats. If it's a close game and there are men in scoring position, you don't want him coming to bat. You know you'd better get the guys in front of him out."
Goldschmidt said of Altuve: "He's one of the best players in the game. You look up his numbers, he's always hit for high average, stole bases and played great defense. Now, he's added power in there. He's doing it all. It's extremely impressive."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.