Quentin lays down 'Hammer' for Sox

Quentin lays down 'Hammer' for Sox

CHICAGO -- A show of hands, please, in response to the following questions:

Which individuals hovering around the game of baseball, either as part of the media or among the White Sox fan base, had Carlos Quentin penciled in as the 2008 American League home run leader prior to a right wrist injury back when the campaign began in April? Nobody from the immediate Quentin family is allowed to vote.

And how many people thought Quentin not only would make his first trip to the All-Star Game this season but also stand as one of the frontrunners for the AL Most Valuable Player award? Anyone other than Quentin himself, or White Sox general manager Ken Williams who is raising his or her hand simply is not telling the truth.

Yes, Quentin has literally been the find of the century for the White Sox. His strong showing on offense from the start helped the South Siders stay afloat through collective tough times with the bat early on this year. But it's his overall production that has made Quentin the White Sox nominee for the MLB Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp and one of the prime candidates to take home this prestigious prize.

The 26-year-old left fielder certainly has the support of his teammates, along with the man who brought him to the White Sox from Arizona.

"He's not doing anything he hasn't done before," said Williams of Quentin. "This is him. He's been a good player."

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that guy," added White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson of his friend and teammate. "As good as the players we have are, that guy shouldered the load for a month or two when guys were getting into a rhythm."

This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote from Monday, Sept. 22 until Sunday, Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Nobody from the White Sox has ever captured this honor, with Rodriguez (four times) and Manny Ramirez having combined for six of the nine AL Aaron Awards handed out. Maybe Quentin will break that drought for the White Sox in 2008.

Although a fractured bone in his right wrist, suffered when Quentin smacked his bat after a foul ball, has cost Quentin all but four hitless at-bats during the month of September, he still has a team-high 36 home runs and 100 RBIs. He also possesses a .288 average, a .394 on-base percentage and a .571 slugging percentage. Quentin knocked out seven home runs apiece in April and May, when the White Sox weren't hitting, and has fanned just 80 times against 66 walks.

Simply put, Quentin stands out as a complete offensive force. And these sorts of lofty statistics weren't remotely expected from Ozzie Guillen, Quentin's own manager, who didn't have the newcomer in his Opening Day roster plan mid-way through Spring Training. It's a good thing for the White Sox that Guillen altered his plan.

"If not for him, we'd probably be five to 10 games out," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko for the player dubbed 'TCQ' by the fans, in reference to Williams' offseason comments made to MLB.com as to how he wasn't after a player like Quentin but he wanted 'The Carlos Quentin.'

"That's about the only thing I can say. That sums it up," Konerko added. "He's been an MVP -- even in his bad games he's drawn a lot of walks, played good defense, been positive. I don't know how many ... we're probably chasing five, six, seven games without him. That's the best compliment I can give him."

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