Alex Rodriguez has posted some pretty incredible numbers over the course of his 143 games played this season: 53 home runs, 131 runs batted in, 113 runs scored, 175 hits, a .314 batting average, and a .651 slugging percentage. But perhaps the most important number for A-Rod this season is zero. There are zero players in baseball currently better than the Texas shortstop, and it’s not even close. But Rodriguez has not played in a single meaningful game this season — by no means his fault — and thus he should receive zero votes for the American League Most Valuable Player award this year.

Rodriguez has played in all of Texas’ 143 contests, accumulating 77 losses to only 66 wins. A-Rod has contributed more to the Rangers than any other player has to their respective squads. The problem is not Rodriguez, but the team. While the MVP is an individual accolade, it is not named the “Best Player in the Game” award. The most valuable player honor must go to a player who really made a difference for his club.

The Rangers without their $252 million shortstop might be 25 games under .500 rather than 11. Were Texas even to be in contention for a playoff spot, things would be different. The bottom line is winning, though, and the Rangers haven’t done that, even with the game’s best player. If there were no other compelling cases for the honor, one might have to give the award to Rodriguez. But at least three other players warrant MVP consideration, and each will lead their team to the playoffs.

Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi have had fantastic seasons for the Yankees. Soriano, the Bombers’ lead-off hitter, has scored 116 runs, piled on 190 hits , 47 of which were doubles, to go along with a .304 average, 35 home runs, 90 runs batted in and 40 stolen bases. He boasts a .554 slugging percentage. But he shouldn’t get the MVP, either. And I don’t say that because of his paltry .333 on-base percentage. He is the Yankees’ sparkplug, no doubt.

Jason Giambi, however, has also been known to ignite the New York offense, and has been mentioned as a MVP candidate as well. His numbers — 36 home runs, .307 batting average, 111 runs batted in, .582 slugging percentage — certainly make the case for that. But Giambi has received around 40 percent of his plate appearances from the designated hitter position, and there is more to baseball than hitting.

Even if this weren’t the case, Giambi still wouldn’t get my vote for MVP, because he, Soriano, and even Bernie Williams have taken turns carrying the Yankees. The reason the Yankees keep winning is that on any given night, anyone in the lineup — at least the first five batters — can carry the team. The Yankees would most likely still be in first place without either Soriano or Giambi.

With the Yankees, the phrase “passing the baton” is often used to describe the club’s approach to hitting. If Soriano can’t get a hit in a given at bat, Derek Jeter will produce, and so on. This is not true in Oakland, where there is only one player who can be counted on to produce on a regular basis, and his name is Miguel Tejada.

The Athletics’ shortstop is hitting at a .314 clip with 100 runs scored, 117 driven in, 31 home runs and 185 hits. Throw the statistics out the window. With the off-season departure of Giambi, many wondered how Oakland would survive. No one questioned their pitching, and the Oakland arms certainly have not disappointed. The team’s offense has done just fine, too, thanks primarily to Tejada. He is the only Oakland starter batting over .300, and several of his 31 dingers were of the dramatic, game-winning variety.

Miguel Tejada is not the best player in baseball. Rodriguez, Soriano and Giambi all have either comparable or better numbers. But Miguel Tejada should be the 2002 American League MVP.