Over the past 20 years, Major League Baseball's postseason has taken on a life of its own. It's become, in effect, a season within a season.

Before the Wild Card era, the baseball playoffs lasted about two weeks, and they served the purpose of eliminating only three teams. Suffice it to say, the postseason wasn't quite the roller coaster ride it's become in the past couple of decades.

When baseball added an extra Wild Card spot in each league before the 2012 season, it increased postseason participation to one-third of the entire league. The playoffs -- which now serve the purpose of eliminating nine teams instead of three -- last almost an entire month and feature four rounds. That's long enough for players like Daniel Murphy and Alcides Escobar to become household names.

With baseball's recent postseason expansion, it's time that we recognize players more across the full length of the playoffs. Note that there is a "Best Major Leaguer, Postseason" category in the Esurance MLB Awards. You can vote on those here

There is still no Postseason MVP Award, however. It's not that there's anything wrong with a World Series or LCS MVP honors. It's just that the baseball playoffs have moved beyond two rounds. When we look back on postseasons from the past 20 years, we remember who owned October -- and not simply who was the best player in each individual series. (Not to mention the fact that the Division Series gets entirely overlooked when it comes to playoff accolades.)

Of course, it's never too late to spark a few arguments. Let's take a look at how the past 20 Postseason MVP races might have shaken out.

1. Tom Glavine, ATL
2. Fred McGriff, ATL
3. Chipper Jones, ATL

See? We've already got a fascinating debate on our hands. Glavine went 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA, including his gem in Game 6 of the World Series, which closed out the Indians. But he still only made four starts that postseason (with Greg Maddux as the staff's clear ace). Meanwhile, McGriff and Jones were pounding out clutch hits on a nightly basis. We'll give the retroactive award to Glavine, based on his Game 6 outing for the ages.

1. Bernie Williams, NYY
2. Mariano Rivera, NYY
3. Andruw Jones, ATL

Williams had at least two hits in eight of his 15 games and finished that postseason hitting .345 with six homers. Aside from maybe Jeffrey Maier, who famously turned Derek Jeter's fly out into a home run in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, nobody helped the Yankees more than Williams (who hit a walk-off 11th-inning homer that night). Rivera, then a middle reliever, pitched multiple innings in seven of his eight appearances and recorded a 0.63 ERA. He finishes second.

1. Livan Hernandez, FLA
2. Gary Sheffield, FLA
3. Mike Mussina, BAL

Hernandez was named MVP of the National League Championship Series and the World Series, so this is a pretty easy vote. He made five appearances that postseason and went 4-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He also famously struck out 15 Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS -- with a little help from Eric Gregg's strike zone, one of the widest of all-time. (It's also worth remembering Mussina here. His Orioles were knocked out in the ALCS, but Moose had a 1.24 ERA in four starts, allowing just 11 hits in 29 innings.)

1. Scott Brosius, NYY
2. Mariano Rivera, NYY
3. Kevin Brown, SD

Brosius launched two massive home runs in Game 3 of the World Series in San Diego and hit .383 in the postseason overall. Meanwhile, Rivera, who was just entering his prime, didn't allow a run in 13 1/3 innings. We'll give the slight edge to Brosius here, because only one of Rivera's saves -- the very same Game 3 where Brosius put the Yankees ahead -- came with a one-run lead.

1. Mariano Rivera, NYY
2. Derek Jeter, NYY
3. Pedro Martinez, BOS

A year later we've got a very similar debate. Jeter hit .375 in the postseason, and he owned the Red Sox in the ALCS. But Rivera -- who didn't allow a run in 12 1/3 innings while recording six saves and two wins -- gets the edge this time, because of his higher-leverage outings. Rivera may have reached the pinnacle of his entire brilliant career in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the World Series, breaking Ryan Klesko's bat on three consecutive pitches.

1. Derek Jeter, NYY
2. Andy Pettitte, NYY
3. Mike Piazza, NYM

Not a whole lot to discuss here. Jeter's numbers (.317/.427/.571) give him the edge already. But it was the timeliness of his big hits -- including a pair of massive tone-setting home runs at Shea Stadium in the World Series -- that put him on top. Depending on your preference in '99, this very easily could have been back-to-back Postseason MVPs for the Captain.

1. Curt Schilling, ARI
2. Randy Johnson, ARI
3. Steve Finley, ARI

Making Schilling and Johnson co-MVPs of the 2001 World Series seemed poetic, but if we're being honest, Johnson probably deserved the award for himself. He won three games in the series, including Game 7 out of the 'pen on zero days of rest (where he had to mop up for Schilling's mistake, no less). But if we're looking at the postseason as a whole, the award goes to Schilling for the role he played in beating the Cardinals in one of the most thrilling Division Series of all time. Schilling won twice -- both complete games -- and allowed a total of one run.

1. Troy Glaus, ANA
2. Scott Spiezio, ANA
3. Barry Bonds, SFG

Really, Glaus and Spiezio are interchangeable here. They each had a massive role in de-throning the Yankees as four-time AL champs. They each played a pivotal part in the Angels' miraculous Game 6 comeback. And they each raked the entire postseason. We'll give Glaus the edge because of his seven homers. (There's also a legitimate case to be made for Bonds -- and his .356/.581/.978 slash line -- in a losing effort.)

1. Josh Beckett, FLA
2. Ivan Rodriguez, FLA
3. Mariano Rivera, NYY

Beckett wins this one, and it's not even close. His Game 6 shutout on three days' rest in the Bronx probably gives him the title by itself. And that's not to mention his 2.11 ERA and his 0.77 WHIP in six playoff starts that year. He shut out the Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS, and followed that with four innings of relief on two days of rest in Game 7.

1. David Ortiz, BOS
2. Curt Schilling, BOS
3. Carlos Beltran, HOU

Here's a simple litmus test for Postseason MVP: When you think of the 2004 postseason, which player comes to mind? Answer: Ortiz. His two walk-off hits in the ALCS sparked the Red Sox to their miraculous comeback -- and that's not to mention a .400 postseason batting average overall. (Side note: There's not a single postseason with a tougher top three than this one. It's abhorrently unfair that Manny Ramirez and Derek Lowe get left off the list, but you really can't argue against Beltran's eight home runs.)

1. Joe Crede, CWS
2. Jermaine Dye, CWS
3. Albert Pujols, STL

If 2004 was the tightest leaderboard, '05 may be the scarcest. The White Sox so thoroughly dispatched the competition that, frankly, their best players didn't have all that much time to rack up numbers. We'll give the edge to Crede here, more because of his walk-off double in Game 2 of the ALCS (with the White Sox trailing by a game), than his .289/.327/.622 slash line and four home runs.

1. Yadier Molina, STL
2. Albert Pujols, STL
3. Chris Carpenter, STL

The 2006 playoffs offer all the proof you should need for the existence of a Postseason MVP. Yadier Molina owned the playoffs in '06, hitting .358 while guiding a relatively unheralded pitching staff from behind the plate. That's not to mention Molina's ninth-inning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS, which put the Cardinals in the World Series. And yet the two MVPs for St. Louis that year were Jeff Suppan (NLCS) and David Eckstein (WS). It just doesn't seem right that Molina didn't take home any hardware.

1. Josh Beckett, BOS
2. Manny Ramirez, BOS
3. David Ortiz, BOS

Beckett becomes our first two-time Postseason MVP -- but not without some controversy. There would surely have been a few shouts for Ramirez and Ortiz, who combined to hit .359 with seven homers -- including Manny's walk-off in Game 2 of the ALDS. But Beckett's postseason numbers, again, are flat-out ridiculous. He won all four of his starts with a 1.20 ERA, and with the season on the line in Game 5 of the ALCS against Cleveland, Beckett pitched eight brilliant innings and struck out 11.

1. Cole Hamels, PHI
2. B.J. Upton, TB
3. Manny Ramirez, LAD

There aren't many easier choices than Hamels, who went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his five postseason starts, winning Game 1 of all three series. Hamels took home both the NLCS and World Series MVP Awards and was as dominant a postseason ace as you'll ever find.

1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY
2. CC Sabathia, NYY
3. Cliff Lee, PHI

Rodriguez won neither the ALCS nor World Series MVP in 2009, but he's unquestionably the player you'll remember when looking back at that postseason. A-Rod hit .365/.500/.808 in the playoffs, including two game-tying homers in the ninth inning or later. Sabathia was brilliant, going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA, including a pair of starts on short rest. But few players have ever had the postseason impact Rodriguez did in '09. (Yes, he's hitting just .159 in four playoff appearances since then, but that doesn't affect his retroactive case.)

1. Tim Lincecum, SFG
2. Cody Ross, SFG
3. Brian Wilson, SFG

Lincecum runs away with the 2010 Postseason MVP Award, given his 2.43 ERA in 37 innings pitched. He struggled a bit in Game 1 of the World Series, but was otherwise unhittable. Meanwhile, Cody Ross finishes a deserving second, after his two home runs against Roy Halladay forever earned him legendary status in San Francisco.

1. David Freese, STL
2. Chris Carpenter, STL
3. Albert Pujols, STL

In just about any other year, you could make a very compelling case for both Carpenter and Pujols, who were brilliant. But Freese had one of the best postseasons of all-time and capped it off by coming through twice in Game 6 of the World Series -- one of the greatest games ever played. Freese's 1.9 Win Probability Added in is the highest in postseason history, meaning no player contributed more to his team's wins than Freese did in '11. This one's a no-brainer.

1. Marco Scutaro, SFG
2. Pablo Sandoval, SFG
3. Justin Verlander, DET

Scutaro and Sandoval probably lay equal claim to this award. Scutaro owned the NLCS, hitting .500, and Sandoval raked in the World Series -- also hitting .500 but with a record-tying three home runs in Game 1. Scutaro gets the slightest of edges here, only because the Giants needed every one of his 14 hits to get past the Cardinals in seven games.

1. David Ortiz, BOS
2. Jon Lester, BOS
3. Carlos Beltran, STL

There are two things any deserving postseason MVP should have: big numbers and big moments. Ortiz had both in 2013. He hit .353 with five homers in the postseason, including an absurd .688 batting average in the World Series. And, of course, it was his game-tying grand slam in Game 2 that ignited the Red Sox in the ALCS.

1. Madison Bumgarner, SFG
2. Wade Davis, KC
3. Eric Hosmer, KC

Bumgarner's 2014 postseason is arguably the best ever. (And I'm not so sure the word "arguably" is even necessary.) He threw a record 52 2/3 innings, with a 1.03 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP and a World Series Game 7 performance for the ages. Heck, who would even argue if we named this entire Postseason MVP Award after him?

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

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