Albert Pujols finally breaks through to win MVP

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who in his first four seasons in the major leagues finished second twice, third and fourth in National League Most Valuable Player voting, finally made it to the top with his victory in the 2005 election.

Pujols, whose slugging helped the Cardinals to the best record in the majors with a 100-62 mark, was listed first on 18 of the 32 ballots cast by two writers in each league city and second on the remaining 14 for a total of 378 points, based on the tabulation system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one for 10th.

Pujols, 25, led the NL in runs (129) and was among the league leaders in most offensive categories. He was tied for first in multi-hit games (57); second in batting average (.330), RBI (117), total bases (360), on-base average (.430) and slugging (.609); third in home runs (41) and extra-base hits (81) and fourth in hits (195). For the fourth consecutive season, Pujols had more walks (97) than strikeouts (65).

In his first major-league season, Pujols finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2001 when he was the unanimous selection as the NL winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. He was the runner-up in 2002 and 2003 and finished third last year. Those elections were all won by San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, who played in only 14 games this year after recovering from two knee surgeries. Bonds has a record seven MVPs overall.

Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones, who led the league in home runs (51) and RBI (128) while batting .263, finished second in the voting with 351 points, based on 13 first-place votes, 17 seconds and two thirds. The other first-place vote went to Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who was second on one ballot and third on the other 30 for 263 points. Lee led the NL in batting (.335), hits (199), doubles (50), extra-base hits (99) and slugging (.662); was second in home runs (46) and seventh in RBI (107).

Pujols, Jones and Lee were the only players named on all ballots.

Rounding out the top 10 were Houston Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg (.283, 36 HR, 101 RBI), Florida Marlins left fielder Miguel Cabrera (.323, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 106 R), Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado (.301, 33 HR, 115 RBI), Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell (.281, 32 HR, 117 RBI), St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter (21-5, 2.83 ERA), San Diego Padres right fielder Brian Giles (.301, 15 HR, 83 RBI, 119 BB) and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.290, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 115 R, 41 SB).

In all, 32 players gained mention.

It marked the 15th time a Cardinals player has been honored but the first in 20 years since Willie McGee’s victory in 1985. The Cardinals’ total of MVP winners is the most in the NL and second only to the New York Yankees’ 19 MVPs in the American League. The Yankees had also been without an MVP since 1985 when Don Mattingly won before Alex Rodriguez ended the drought Monday.

Stan Musial was a three-time MVP for St. Louis in 1943, 1946 and 1948. Other Cardinals winners were Frankie Frisch in 1931, Dizzy Dean in 1934, Joe Medwick in 1937, Mort Cooper in 1942, Marty Marion in 1944, Ken Boyer in 1964, Orlando Cepeda in 1967, Bob Gibson in 1968, Joe Torre in 1971, Keith Hernandez (a co-winner with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Willie Stargell) in 1979 and McGee.

Pujols became the 11th NL first baseman cited, a list that includes Hernandez, Stargell, Cepeda and Musial (in 1946) as well as Frank McCormick, Dolph Camilli, Willie McCovey, Steve Garvey and Jeff Bagwell. Musial was an outfielder when he won his other two MVPs.

Pujols is also the 18th player to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards, joining Cepeda, McCovey, Bagwell, Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Dick Allen, Johnny Bench and Andre Dawson in the NL and Rod Carew, Thurman Munson, Fred Lynn, Cal Ripken, Jr., Jose Canseco and Ichiro Suzuki in the AL. Lynn and Suzuki are the only players to have won both awards in the same season.

The vote:

2005 NL MVP

Albert PujolsSt. Louis Cardinals1814378
Andruw JonesAtlanta Braves13172351
Derrek LeeChicago Cubs1130263
Morgan EnsbergHouston Astros1077211160
Miguel CabreraFlorida Marlins13412341146
Carlos DelgadoFlorida Marlins26242184
Pat BurrellPhiladelphia Phillies4613165
Chris CarpenterSt. Louis Cardinals13312152
Brian GilesSan Diego Padres122212448
Jimmy RollinsPhiladelphia Phillies21241345
Dontrelle WillisFlorida Marlins2321242
Jason BayPittsburgh Pirates1141541
Chase UtleyPhiladelphia Phillies221222
Lance BerkmanHouston Astros1113121
Bobby AbreuPhiladelphia Phillies111221
Chad CorderoWashington Nationals122421
Trevor HoffmanSan Diego Padres121119
Carlos LeeMilwaukee Brewers1121219
Jeff KentLos Angeles Dodgers112118
David WrightNew York Mets112218
David EcksteinSt. Louis Cardinals12215
Roger ClemensHouston Astros218
Roy OswaltHouston Astros1116
Ken Griffey Jr.Cincinnati Reds115
Andy PettitteHouston Astros215
Jim EdmondsSt. Louis Cardinals13
Cliff FloydNew York Mets13
Marcus GilesAtlanta Braves13
Adam DunnCincinnati Reds33
Scott EyreSan Francisco Giants11
Brad LidgeHouston Astros11
Jose ReyesNew York Mets11