Andre Dawson: ‘Flip a coin’ on Bryant or Rizzo for MVP

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Former MVP Andre Dawson praises Bryant’s versatility, but says the Cubs offense was built around Rizzo.

Kris Bryant is having a massive month at the plate, batting .366 with an OPS of 1.131 in August. If you believe in what oddsmakers are putting out there, Bryant seems to be the leading candidate in the N.L. MVP race.

But it’s only late-August. The Nationals’ Daniel Murphy, the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the Dodgers’ Corey Seager are still in it.

Let’s see, did we leave anybody out?

Of course, Anthony Rizzo — who himself has 10 hits in five games on the Cubs’ current road trip — is very much in it, too.

The way the 1987 N.L. MVP sees it, neither Cubs star has established an edge over the other yet.

“This team, offensively, was built around Rizzo,” said Andre Dawson, now in his 16th year in the Marlins front office. “But Bryant has come in and brought so much versatility. You can’t picture this team having the success it has had with one or the other out of the lineup.”

Dawson swatted 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs in 1987, becoming the first player on a last-place team to win MVP. Neither Bryant nor Rizzo will match those numbers this season, yet one certainly could finish stronger than the other.

“Right now, you can really flip a coin with those two guys,” Dawson said. “I wouldn’t want to cast a vote just yet. It’s probably going to go down to the very end.”

THREE UP/DOWN

Up: A little over a week ago, we were telling you how poorly Addison Russell was hitting on the road. Six games into the current trip, all he has is seven hits — five of them home runs — and nine runs driven in. The 22-year-old shortstop is battting .304 in August and is four RBIs shy of a new single-month high for his career.

Down: Jason Heyward has had some terrible offensive months before. In 2010, he batted .181 in June after being N.L. Rookie of the Month in both April and May. A year later, he had a 4-for-41 (.098) May. In 2013, he hit .121 in April and .178 in May.

Yet those numbers came with the Braves. Who’s supposed to care about that? To Cubs fans, Heyward’s current .197 August likely seems beyond-the-pale bad.

Up: Ben Zobrist is heating up again, right on time. He’s 10-for-23 (.435) with two doubles, a triple and six runs scored on the current road trip. There’s room for an old dude in this everyday lineup after all.

1 THROUGH 9

1. Cubs: They’re ripping through August with a record of 18-4. Combined score in those 18 victories: 100-33.

2. Rangers: The bullpen is shaky, yet they’re 28-8 in one-run games. Bottom line, this team is clutch.

3. Dodgers: What they’re doing — building a lead in the N.L. West despite having used 14 different starting pitchers this season — never ceases to impress.

4. Nationals: Crushed by the Orioles on the field; reeling at Stephen Strasburg DL news off it.

5. Blue Jays: Concurrent DL stints for Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista didn’t rock the boat badly at all.

6. Red Sox: David Ortiz is ridiculously hot, but the team needs Xander Bogaerts to pull himself out of his month-long offensive funk.

7. Indians: Corey Kluber hasn’t lost a start in nearly eight weeks. Danny Salazar, on the other hand, has gone only 11 innings over his last four starts.

8. Orioles: Like the Jays and Red Sox, they have a good shot at a wild-card spot if they can’t win the A.L. East. But who’s thinking about that “if”?

9. Cardinals: They’re under .500 at home — weird, isn’t it? — yet no team, not even the Cubs, can match their 14-games-over mark on the road.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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