Forum Spin Doctor
NEW YORK - Justin Morneau won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday, edging Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees after a season in which his 34 homers and 130 RBIs helped the Minnesota Twins capture their division.
Morneau received 15 first-place votes, eight seconds, three thirds and two fourths for 320 points in voting by a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Jeter got 12 firsts, 14 seconds, one fourth and one sixth for 306 points.
"Last night even I was saying I don't expect to get it. I might have given myself maybe a 50-50 chance," Morneau said. "I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment if I didn't get it."
Three Twins finished among the top seven in the MVP voting. Joe Mauer won the AL batting title this year and Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana won the AL Cy Young last week.
"That says a lot," Morneau said. "I'd love to play my whole career here. We have a great young team."
Boston's David Ortiz was third with 193 points, followed by Oakland's Frank Thomas (174), Chicago's Jermaine Dye (156), Mauer (116). Santana got 114 points, receiving the other first-place vote.
It was the 16th-closest MVP race since the current format began in 1938, and the 10th closest in the AL.
Morneau hit .321 in helping the Twins win the AL Central for the fourth time in five years. Jeter batted .344 with 14 homers and 97 RBIs, finishing three points behind Mauer, who became the first catcher to win an AL batting title.
Morneau became the second Canadian-born player to win an MVP following Colorado's Larry Walker in 1997. He is the third Canadian-born athlete to win an MVP in a major pro league this year, following Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash and San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton.
Walker telephoned Morneau as the first baseman was arriving at the Metrodome.
"He just wanted to call and say, `Congrats," Morneau said. "He said he thought he was more excited than I was. He said, `Just wait, it's going to be crazy.'"
Walker, a coach for Canada, autographed a bat for Morneau at the World Baseball Classic in March.
"To Justin, make Canada proud," Walker wrote.
"I thought that was pretty cool," Morneau said.
Morneau is the fourth Minnesota player to win following Zoilo Versalles (1965), Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977).
Earning just $385,000 in his third season as a regular, Morneau proved a bargain. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, voted NL MVP on Monday, made $355,000.
Ortiz earned a $100,000 bonus for finishing third in the voting. Thomas, who left the Athletics last week to sign with Toronto, received a $100,000 bonus for placing fourth. Dye got $60,000 for fifth.