09/11/2002 7:33 pm ET
MLBeat: Ichiro's MVP? A-Rod
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The American League's reigning Most Valuable Player paused for more than a minute Wednesday afternoon when asked who his MVP choice was this season.
Earlier in the interview, Ichiro Suzuki had said his top three MVP candidates were Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano and Athletics shortstop Miguel Tejada, in no particular order.
But when asked to rank them in order, he thought about it.
He finally said, "Alex."
"Soriano and Tejada have contributed to their winning teams," Ichiro said, "but I don't think the MVP should necessarily be selected from the winning team. Both of them are invaluable players to their teams, and because of them, their teams have won a lot of games.
"But in Alex's case, he is above anybody. If Texas had won more games, I don't have any doubts that Alex would be the top candidate. But because of his team's situation, I don't know."
The MVP voters -- members of the Baseball Writers Association of America -- usually take into account how the players' teams do during the regular season. Ichiro was a natural in 2001, because he helped the Mariners win a league-record 116 games, led MLB in batting average (.350) and stolen bases (56), becoming only the second player in history to accomplish that feat. The other was Jackie Robinson.
Ichiro said this season is one time when playing for a champion isn't necessarily the top criteria.
Rodriguez already has set a record for most home runs by a shortstop (53), leads the league in RBIs (131) and is seventh in batting average (.312).
Soriano ranks among the league leaders in runs (first with 116), home runs (fifth with 35), and stolen bases (first with 40). Tejada has been the on-field leader of an Athletics team that ran off an AL-record 20 straight wins and is zeroing in on the AL West championship the Mariners won in 2001.
In the end, Ichiro rated his top three candidates as: "Alex, Soriano and Tejada."
Step forward: Prior to Wednesday night's game against the Rangers, left-handed reliever Norm Charlton threw his second simulated game; afterward, he said the 40-pitch session went extremely well.
But he also said that he needs at least one more simulated game before being "game-ready," and his manager believes that throwing in a regular season game might not be a good idea at all.
"I, myself, think it would be a mistake," Lou Piniella said. "I think he has come a long way in a short period of time, and I think he should continue to build arm strength -- work hard over the winter to keep it or enhance it -- and get ready for Spring Training.
"I think the chances of getting into a game and having that adrenaline rush and overthrowing the ball is more of a risk than reward."
Piniella applauded Charlton's dogged determination to come back much sooner from rotator cuff surgery than anyone expected. He is about three months ahead of schedule and admitted Wednesday that his goal remains to pitch in a game this season.
"I am close to being ready to pitch in a game, but I need a little more command," Charlton said. "My aggression was more under control the last 28 or so pitches than the first 10 or 12."
The 39-year-old faced a lineup that included Pat Borders, Willie Bloomquist, Luis Ugueto, Charles Gipson and Scott Podsednik.
Charlton said he had a good splitter, but his slider wasn't as good as his previous simulated game, and he still needs work on his fastball.
"I need to be 95 percent sure that I can throw my fastball for a strike," he said. "If I can't throw strikes with my fastball, the splitter won't do me any good."
Asked how he would feel if he didn't pitch again this season, Charlton said, "It wouldn't be the end of the world. But I want to pitch this year. I set a goal and have worked hard to come back and do this."
As for where he goes from here, he said, "What happens beyond today hasn't been discussed."
Davis still ailing: Catcher Ben Davis is bothered by a sore lower back and might not be able to play in Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Rangers. If he can't go, Piniella said, Pat Borders will start behind the plate.
Did you know? The leadoff home run by Ichiro in Monday night's game matched the club record for most career leadoff homers. It was Ichiro's fifth -- fourth this season -- and tied Joey Cora's record.
This date in history: On Sept. 11, 1989, right-handed reliever Mike Schooler recorded his 27th save of the season, breaking Bill Caudill's single-season club record. Schooler ended the season with 33 saves, a record that stood until Kazuhiro Sasaki broke it in 2000.
Fantasy Edge: C Dan Wilson has hits in eight of his last 10 games, going 12-for-34 over that span, and is batting .517 (15-for-29) against the Rangers this season.
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its clubs.