ST. LOUIS -- It's a measure of how brilliant Albert Pujols has been over the course of his career that he's likely to receive "only" down-ballot consideration for the National League Most Valuable Player award this year. You know, he was just the eighth- or ninth-most valuable NL player in 2011. That's all.
The man that manager Tony La Russa repeatedly called the best player he's ever managed will bring home at least one award this year, though. As selected by MLB.com, Pujols is the Cardinals' 2011 player of the year, edging new teammate Lance Berkman for the honor.
"He's probably one of the best baseball players there's ever been," Matt Holliday said following Pujols' historic outburst in Game 3 of the World Series.
As selected by MLB.com, awards have been designated in three categories -- Player, Pitcher Breakout Player -- for each of the 30 clubs.
Appropriately, Pujols is joined on the virtual podium by fellow Cards stalwart Chris Carpenter. The veteran right-hander, who signed on in September for two more years in St. Louis, earned Pitcher of the Year honors from MLB.com, topping Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse. Carpenter led the NL with 237 innings, and he pitched better than his 3.45 ERA or 11-9 record would indicate.
David Freese picks up Breakout Player honors from the site, an indication that the vote took place after the postseason. It's difficult to imagine more of a breakout than the one Freese enjoyed in October, winning Most Valuable Player Award honors in both the NL Championship Series and the World Series. The hometown hero was huge all postseason, but never bigger than when he hit a walk-off homer in Game 6 of the Fall Classic.
Those awards may not be accompanied by any Baseball Writers' Association of America hardware, but several Cardinals will likely at least appear in the voting. Pujols and Berkman will probably both receive votes for the NL MVP Award.
No Cardinals received votes for the BBWAA's Rookie of the Year or Cy Young Awards, but La Russa finished third in Manager of the Year balloting. If the vote were taken after the playoffs, he'd likely have been a shoo-in to win it, but instead the writers vote at the end of the regular season.
Still, La Russa was a solid candidate, finishing third behind Arizona's Kirk Gibson and Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke. La Russa led his team to a postseason berth despite the season-long absence of injured ace Adam Wainwright and significant injuries at different points in the year to Pujols, Holliday and Freese, among others.
Yadier Molina picked up his fourth straight Gold Glove at catcher, but he was the only Cardinals player to bring home the Rawlings hardware. Lohse, Holliday and Daniel Descalso all finished as runners-up for Gold Gloves. No Cardinals player won a Silver Slugger either, a curious fact for the team that led the NL in runs scored.
The Cardinals will announce their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year later this offseason.