While Major League Baseball does not name Most Valuable Player Awards for the Division Series, we feel Ron Belliard is most deserving of this honor.
The second baseman hit .462 over the four-game series with a double and five singles in 13 at-bats. He drove in two runs, scored twice, walked once, was hit by a pitch and stole a base. His OBP was .533 and he slugged .538, for a Pujolsian-like 1.071 OPS.
Belliard’s huge defensive play in Game One not only saved that contest, but it may have been the pivotal play of the entire series. It led to the 31-year-old receiving a game ball from manager Tony La Russa, an unusual move, but a recognition of the importance of the play.
Belliard celebrates winning this award
After coming up initially with the Milwaukee Brewers after being drafted by the organization in the eighth round of the 1994 draft, Belliard was a regular there from 1999-2002 before staring at second for Colorado in 2003.
He spent the next 2-1/2 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, where in 2005 he posted a career high in home runs with 17, fourth among American League second basemen. His 78 RBI was also his best as a major leaguer, good for third at the position in the AL.
Belliard’s $4 million option for the 2006 season was picked up by the Indians before they traded him to the Cardinals for Hector Luna at the deadline. However, in 54 games with the Cards, Belliard disappointed offensively. He batted just .237, but did hit five home runs and drive in 23 runs in 194 at-bats.
Belliard will again be eligible for free-agency after the season amid rumors the Indians want him back – a strong supporting statement for Belliard, but not exactly a ringing endorsement of Luna’s future.
If Belliard continues to contribute like in the NLDS, he will make Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty think hard about re-signing him to a new deal. Doing so would stop at least temporarily the revolving door policy at second base that has led to Fernando Vina, Bo Hart, Tony Womack, Mark Grudzielanek, Hector Luna and Aaron Miles among the players seeing considerable action there in recent seasons.
But, there is some unfinished business. Belliard and his teammates want eight more wins first.
Note: After driving in 12 runs against the Padres in 2005, Reggie Sanders was our NLDS Most Valuable Player last season. link to story – “Sanders Named NLDS MVP by www.thestlcardinals.com”
Here is a recap of some of Belliard’s NLDS exploits:
Game Four, first inning: Belliard shot a broken-bat single to center to score two off Woody Williams, but as the throw was cut off, he was caught between first and second to end the inning. All Belliard had to do was run back to first, as no one was covering, but he fell down. Juan Encarnacion may have scored otherwise. Still, these two runs immediately tied the game after the Padres got out on top against Chris Carpenter and the Redbirds did not look back.
Game Four, third inning: Belliard threw out Josh Bard from just a few feet away from the first base line in short right field.
Game Three: Belliard singled and doubled but didn’t have much help in a 3-1 loss.
Game Two, second inning: Belliard singled, but Juan Encarnacion was thrown out at the plate.
Game One: Belliard had two hits, an intentional walk, a stolen base and run scored.
Game One, seventh inning: With the tying run at the plate against Tyler Johnson, Belliard made a huge play on Todd Walker’s grounder, rolling to his left and throwing to Albert Pujols just in time to retire Walker by an eyelash.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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