Rodriguez Is MVP in a Cellar's Market

Times Staff Writer

Texas Ranger shortstop Alex Rodriguez, long considered one of baseball's most complete players, finally has received the one award that eluded him for the first seven full seasons of a career that has been astounding in terms of production and compensation.

Now the question is whether the newest American League most valuable player will display his most prized hardware in Arlington or elsewhere come opening day.

Rodriguez, who edged Toronto Blue Jay first baseman Carlos Delgado in voting by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America to become the first American League player from a last-place team -- and only the second overall -- to win the award, said Monday during a conference call with reporters that Ranger management had approached him about a possible trade.

"I'm just going to wait and see what happens," said Rodriguez, who confirmed that he had mentioned several preferred destinations in his discussions with the Rangers. "I'm not closing any doors on anyone or anything."

General Manager John Hart told Associated Press that interest in Rodriguez had cooled considerably since several teams expressed interest earlier in the off-season.

"I don't see much opportunity on the trade front," Hart said. "Alex and the club both agreed we weren't looking to trade, but if we were contacted regarding the possibility of a deal, Alex basically said he'd keep his options open."

The Rangers, who finished last in the AL West for a fourth consecutive season, possibly would want to trade Rodriguez and the seven years remaining on his 10-year, $252-million contract to provide the financial flexibility required to shore up one of baseball's worst pitching staffs, among other weaknesses.

But Rodriguez said he would not be surprised to open his fourth consecutive season in the Texas lineup because of the perceived difficulty in moving baseball's richest contract. He has the right to veto any trade, though the 28-year-old said his time with the Rangers has been trying.

"It's been a rough three years in Texas," he said.

Rodriguez declined to discuss a report in Monday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram that described his relationship with Ranger Manager Buck Showalter as deteriorating and contended he was upset with the recent firing of a clubhouse attendant.

"I have no comment on that," said Rodriguez, who was vacationing in Mexico with his new wife. "I really want to focus on this award."

Rodriguez, who had twice finished second in AL MVP voting, to Texas slugger Juan Gonzalez in 1996 and Oakland shortstop Miguel Tejada in 2002, became only the fifth player from a losing team to win the award.

Andre Dawson, the National League MVP in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs, was the only other player from a last-place team to be named MVP.

Rodriguez collected six first-place votes, the fewest for a winner since the New York Yankees' Yogi Berra in 1951, and 242 points. Runner-up Delgado received five first-place votes and 213 points. New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada finished third with five first-place votes and 194 points. Ten players received first-place votes, one short of the record.

Rodriguez, whose offensive production actually dipped from 2002, when he hit 57 home runs and drove in 142 runs, said he was surprised to win the award.

"This was the one year where I had a wait-and-see approach," said Rodriguez, who hit .298 with a league-leading 47 homers and 118 runs batted in, 27 RBIs fewer than Delgado.

"Years past I was waiting by the phone and praying.... It's the kind of thing where I felt I was driving myself crazy.

"To join an elite group like this, I'm so proud. It is a validation of the hard work and dedication."

The MVP was the only major award missing from Rodriguez's trophy case. He was selected major league player of the year three times by the Sporting News and was voted Players Choice AL player of the year three times by his peers.

Rodriguez will receive a $500,000 bonus for winning the award.




AL MVP Voting

Top five voting for the American League most valuable player award, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on 14-9-8- 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Complete voting, D7:

*--* Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total Rodriguez, Texas 6 5 6 242 Delgado, Toronto 5 8 3 213 Posada, New York 5 4 4 194 Stewart, Minn. 3 2 2 140 Ortiz, Boston 4 3 2 130



AL MVP Voting

Voting for the American League most valuable player award, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on a 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis:

*--* Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total Alex Rodriguez, Texas 6 5 6 242 Carlos Delgado, Toronto 5 8 3 213 Jorge Posada, New York 5 4 4 194 Shannon Stewart, Minnesota 3 2 2 140 David Ortiz, Boston 4 3 2 130 Manny Ramirez, Boston 1 3 3 100 Nomar Garciaparra, Boston 1 2 1 99 Vernon Wells, Toronto 1 - 1 84 Carlos Beltran, Kansas City - - 1 77 Bret Boone, Seattle - - 1 65 Miguel Tejada, Oakland 1 - 1 49 Bill Mueller, Boston - - 2 45 Jason Giambi, N.Y. Yankees 1 - - 36 Garret Anderson, Angels - - - 35 Keith Foulke, Oakland - - 1 20 Frank Thomas, Chicago - - - 20 Eric Chavez, Oakland - - - 18 Carlos Lee, Chicago - - - 16 Magglio Ordonez, Chicago - - - 16 Alfonso Soriano, New York - - - 15 Derek Jeter, New York - 1 - 10 Pedro Martinez, Boston - - - 7 Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle - - - 6 Esteban Loaiza, Chicago - - - 4 Jason Varitek, Boston - - - 4 Aubrey Huff, Tampa Bay - - - 4 Mariano Rivera, New York - - - 3


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