Angels' Vladimir Guerrero Wins AL MVP

Wednesday, November 17th 2004, 8:43 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Vladimir Guerrero figured someone from his baseball-crazed country would be chosen as the American League's Most Valuable Player.

``I knew the award would go to a Dominican, with three of the candidates being in the race,'' the Anaheim Angels slugger said Tuesday after winning the honor by a lopsided vote.

The runner-up, New York Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, isn't from the Dominican Republic. Third-place finisher Manny Ramirez and fourth-place finisher hitter David Ortiz _ both members of Boston's World Series champions _ are from the Caribbean country.

``It's in our blood,'' Guerrero said through a translator during a conference call. ``When we are youths in the Dominican, we pick up bats and balls because baseball is part of what we grow up with.

``The fun feeling you get playing keeps your head up when you encounter difficult times.''

This season certainly wasn't one of those for the 28-year-old Guerrero.

``When they told me I was the MVP, I was very excited,'' he said. ``I am here in the Dominican Republic in the presidential palace surrounded by my family and President Fernandez. I am very pleased to share this award with my country.''

The Angels right fielder, who hit .337 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs, received 21 of 28 first-place votes. He had 354 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Sheffield got five first-place votes and 254 points. Ramirez received one first-place vote and 238 points, and Ortiz got the other first-place vote and had 174 points.

Guerrero signed a $70 million, five-year contract with the Angels last January after eight seasons with the Montreal Expos. He paid big dividends in his first season, leading the league with 124 runs and 366 total bases.

He probably wrapped up the MVP award down the stretch. Guerrero batted .371 in September with 10 homers and 23 RBIs, and went 14-for-30 (.467) with six homers and 11 RBIs in the last six games of the season to help the Angels win the AL West by one game over Oakland.

``To see him single-handedly carry us to the pennant was incredible,'' Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said. ``When he came to our team, our expectations were obviously very, very high, and he met every one of them.''

The only other non-rookies who became MVPs in their first AL seasons were Baltimore's Frank Robinson (1966), Chicago's Dick Allen (1972) and Detroit's Willie Hernandez (1984). In the NL, Kirk Gibson accomplished the feat with Los Angeles in 1988.

Houston's Roger Clemens won the NL Cy Young Award last week following his first season in the league. Clemens won six Cy Youngs in the AL.

Guerrero is the second Angels player to win, joining Don Baylor (1979). He is the fourth Dominican to be MVP, following Toronto's George Bell (1987), the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa (1998) and Oakland's Miguel Tejada (2002).

Guerrero, who has an extremely strong arm to go with his offensive talents, was a plus for the Angels in other ways as well, Scioscia said.

``He was going to do everything he could to help the team win and not think about himself,'' the manager said. ``This is the type of player who set an example for the rest of the team. His personality was great and he was just a pleasure to be around.

``For as talented as he is, he's probably the most unassuming superstar you'd ever be around. He's got probably the smallest ego of anybody that has accomplished what he has.''

Guerrero gets a $500,000 bonus for winning the award, and Ramirez earned $100,000 for finishing third. Ortiz didn't get anything for finishing fourth _ but would get $400,000 for finishing second through fifth in his contract that starts next season.

Tejada, now with Baltimore, gets a $300,000 bonus for finishing fifth, and Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez gets $100,000 for winding up 10th.