"When you're an athlete in a team sport, the only thing that really matters is winning," Baltimore's shortstop said Tuesday after he became the first AL player to capture the most valuable player award as member of a losing team. "Having gone through winning, I can stand up here and say there's nothing like it. Not to downplay being awarded the MVP, but in comparison, there is no comparison."
Ripken hit .323 with 34 homers and 114 runs batted in, but Baltimore finished sixth in the seven-team AL East with a 67-95 record. He received 15 first-place votes, eight seconds, four thirds and one seventh for 318 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America.
Fielder, who led the majors with 133 RBIs and tied for the major league lead in homers with 44, was second. He got 286 points with nine first-place votes, 12 seconds, six thirds and one seventh.
Last year, Fielder finished second to Oakland's Rickey Henderson despite hitting 51 home runs. The knock was that the Tigers finished last.
This season, Detroit contended until the final weeks.
"They told me last year I had to play on a contender," Fielder said. "Now, Cal Ripken plays on a sixth-place team and they tell me he's an MVP. It's a shame. It's a shame the way things go down. I understand Cal might have been the MVP. I'm not saying he didn't have that kind of season, but he played with a sixth-place team.
"It's a joke as far as I'm concerned. The way things were done this year, I'm just done with it. If anybody put together two years like I did, they'd be MVP. So it's just a bunch of garbage."
Although the BBWAA does not release a complete list of how each writer voted, executive secretary Jack Lang did say that Joe Giuliotti of the Boston Herald voted Ripken seventh and Kit Stier of the Oakland Tribune voted Fielder seventh.
Ripken chose not to try understand the voting process.
"It's unfair for me to get involved in the specifics of the voting and the interpretation of the MVP," he said. "My job is go out and do the best I can. Then, after your job is over, it's out of your control whether you win the award or finish second. But now that I've won it, I'm very happy about it."
Ripken was AL rookie of the year in 1982 and MVP in 1983, when the Orioles won the World Series. This time, he earned MVP honors with a team that was out of contention by early May, and that took some of the fun out of the award.
"Winning the World Series and being on a winning team is the best feeling you can have," he said.
Ripken became only the third player in baseball history to earn the award as part of a losing team. Ernie Banks did it in 1958 and 1959 with the Chicago Cubs and Andre Dawson, also of the Cubs, won it in 1987.
Ripken established career highs in average, home runs and RBIs and was the All-Star MVP after hitting a game-winning homer. One day earlier, he won the All-Star home run contest.
Ripken's consecutive games streak is up to 1,572--second-best in baseball history behind Lou Gehrig's 2,130--but this year he proved he is more than merely an iron man.
Ripken's 34 homers made him the eighth player in major league history to hit at least 20 homers in each of his first 10 full seasons. Banks is the only other shortstop to hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
Of all his accomplishments this season, Ripken is most proud of his batting average, which was 49 points higher than his career mark. He didn't dip below .318 after the third day of the season.
"This season I really didn't have a slump," he said. "It was a magical season."
Ripken also proved that he could maintain the same level of performance at the end of a 162-game schedule as he did in April by hitting .348 in September.
"Finishing strong was important to me because it capped off a very good year," he said. "It also silenced some of my critics about my consecutive games streak--one that I always downplay and everyone else overplays."
Ripken earned a $100,000 bonus on top of his $2.2 million salary. Carter got a $50,000 bonus added to his $3 million salary for finishing fifth.