If baseball's Most Valuable Player voting were held today, my choices would have to be shortstop Robin Yount of the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League and outfielder Pedro Guerrero of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National.
The latter race appears more wide open at the moment, with several outstanding candidates, but Guerrero has solid statistics (a .300-plus batting average along with big home run and RBI totals), and he has been the key to the Dodgers' second half resurgence.
In the final analysis, a lot may depend on who wins the tight N.L. West race between L.A. and Atlanta. If the Braves prevail, in fact, I'd be tempted to switch my own vote to outfielder Dale Murphy, who has been hitting for both power and average all season.
The Montreal Expos also have a couple of candidates in first baseman Al Oliver, the N.L.'s leading hitter, and catcher Gary Carter, who has 27 homers.
Philadelphia, of course, is solidly behind third baseman Mike Schmidt, who is shooting for a third consecutive MVP award and probably picked up some additional support recently with his 30th home run. In Pittsburgh, Manager Chuck Tanner says no MVP list is complete without two of his players - third baseman Bill Madlock and first baseman Jason Thompson.
Then there are the dark horses - outfielder Dusty Baker of the Dodgers; third baseman Bob Horner of the Braves; first baseman Bill Buckner of the Cubs; outfielder Gary Matthews of the Phillies; shortstop Dave Concepcion of the Reds; and outfielders Lonnie Smith and George Hendrick of the Cardinals.
Yount's all-round brilliance seems to make him nearly everyone's choice as the A.L.'s MVP, but that could change if Baltimore's Eddie Murray were to lead the surging Orioles past the Brewers in the final weeks of the season. Robin must also fight off the challenge of teammate Gorman Thomas, who is going for the league's home run title.
The Kansas City Royals have three candidates in designated hitter Hal McRae, outfielder Willie Wilson, and third baseman George Brett. But the fact that McRae, the league's RBI leader, almost never plays in the field, will probably hurt his chances with a lot of voters.
Two California Angels who deserve consideration are outfielder Reggie Jackson and third baseman Doug DeCinces. Jackson has been over .300 since the All-Star break, with a lot of homers and runs batted in, and has not been the liability in the field that most of his critics predicted he would be.
While Rickey Henderson's extraordinary feat of erasing Lou Brock's single-season record for stolen bases (118) has made the Oakland A's speedster a TV favorite, he's probably going to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Like the National League, the American also has its dark horses, and they include first baseman Cecil Cooper of the Brewers; catcher Lance Parrish of the Tigers; outfielder Dave Winfield of the Yankees; second baseman Damaso Garcia of the Blue Jays, and third baseman Toby Harrah and first baseman-designated hitter Andre Thornton of the Indians. Although little has been written about Thornton, his offensive statistics are outstanding.