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09/21/09 12:41 AM ET

Third MVP could be in the cards for Pujols

Slugger on track for a career year offensively

ST. LOUIS -- It's not easy to pick a best season for Albert Pujols, but his 2009 campaign has to be in the discussion. As a result he appears to be well on his way to a third National League Most Valuable Player Award and, perhaps, even his first unanimous selection.

But Pujols looks at things by a different measure. Though statistically he may be on his way to a career year, he has a different standard. His career year, in his own mind, was the one that ended with the Cardinals celebrating on the field at Busch Stadium as World Series champions.

Cardinals at a glance
2009 record: 91-71
2008 record: 86-76
NL Central champs

McClellan: Hometown boy
Cards: Shaking off walk-off
Ludwick: Dream fulfilled
Hawksworth: On way up
Ryan: Playing it cool
Pujols: Ready for fun stuff
Wainwright: Proud, durable
Holliday: Kids' play
Pujols: Triple Crown?
La Russa: 14th postseason
Carpenter: Heart of staff
Pujols: Eschewing rest
Holliday: A perfect fit
Carpenter: Ready to go
La Russa: Getting proactive
Wainwright: Apt pupil
Pujols: His place in history?
Pujols: The evolution
Holliday: Offensive spark
La Russa: Controls fate
Pujols: MVP No. 3?
Wainwright: Mr. Consistent
La Russa: Winning cures all
Carpenter: A go Game 1
Holliday: Big impact
Wainwright: Cy in cards?

"I think it's too early to say that [this is my best year]," Pujols said. "The reason I say that is because in 2006 I accomplished what I wanted, and that was winning the World Series. But number-wise, [I could hit] 50 home runs, [record a] career high in RBIs, but I don't necessarily think that means that's your best year."

Still, Pujols is en route to a historic season even within his own career. He stands at 47 home runs with two weeks remaining, giving him a shot at 50 for the first time (his personal best is 49, in 2006). His 127 RBIs are 10 shy of his career high, his .680 slugging percentage would be a career best and he's already set a personal mark with 107 walks.

Pressed a little, though, he admits he has little to complain about as far as his 2009 season goes.

Albert Pujols' year-by-year statistics and how he fared in the MVP voting each season:
* Through Sept. 20

"Consistency-wise, I think I can compare this with the 2003 and 2006 seasons, when I was really consistent with my swing," he said. "I think this year I have been consistent since Day 1, even though I had a bad Spring Training. I put that in the past, and it didn't bother me at all. And I'm a guy who likes to have a really consistent Spring Training, and I didn't have one."

With the Cardinals a heavy favorite to make the postseason, it would be staggering if Pujols doesn't pick up MVP Award No. 3. Especially since, for 3 1/2 months, he was the unquestioned driving force in the Cards' lineup. In the second half, he has been joined in the heart of the order by Matt Holliday, but in the first half, he did much of the heavy lifting himself.

"We have a nice team," manager Tony La Russa said. "We had a winning team, near first place or in first place [in the first half], and he was the difference in the majority of those games. I don't know who the candidates are, but I can't remember playing anybody and thinking, 'Wow, this guy's as valuable as Albert.' "

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.