Justin Morneau narrowly wins AL MVP

First baseman Justin Morneau, whose clutch hitting helped the Minnesota Twins overcome a 12-game deficit in mid-July to go on and win the American League Central title, was elected Most Valuable Player in a tight race with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in balloting by the BBWAA.

Morneau, who batted .321 with 34 home runs and 130 runs batted in, was named first on 15 of the 28 ballots cast by two writers from each league city, second on eight, third on three and fourth on two to total 320 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third on down to one for 10th.

Jeter, who was second in the league in batting with a .343 average and had 214 hits, 118 runs, 97 RBI and 34 stolen bases, was listed first on 12 ballots, second on 14, fourth on one and sixth on one to score 306 points. The other first-place vote went to Twins pitcher Johan Santana (19-6, 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts in 233 ⅔ innings), who placed seventh overall with 114 points.

The only players other than Morneau and Jeter to be named on every ballot were Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (.287, 54 HR, 137 RBI), who ranked third with 193 points, and Chicago White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye (.314, 44 HR, 120 RBI), who was fifth with 156 points. The fourth-place finisher was Oakland Athletics DH Frank Thomas (.270, 39 HR, 114 RBI), who was on 26 ballots and had 174 points. Rounding out the top 10 were Twins catcher Joe Mauer (.347, 13 HR, 84 RBI), Cleveland Indians DH Travis Hafner (.308, 42 HR, 117 RBI), Los Angeles Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero (.329, 33 HR, 116 RBI) and Detroit Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen (.320, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB). In all, 33 players received votes.

The 14-point differential between Morneau, who had never received an MVP vote before, and Jeter, whose best previous finish was third in 1999, made the 2006 election the 16th closest overall and 10th in the AL since the current format was adopted by the BBWAA in 1938, seven years after taking over the awards. Prior to then, one writer from each league city voted.

The closest AL election was in 1947 when Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio won over Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams, 202-201. The only other closer AL elections than 2006: 1960 (Yankees right fielder Roger Maris over Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle, 225-222), 1996 (Texas Rangers right fielder Juan Gonzalez over Seattle Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez, 290-287), 1961 (Maris over Mantle, 202-198), 1944 (Tigers pitcher Hal Newhouser over Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout, 236-232), 1995 (Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn over Indians left fielder Albert Belle, 308-300), 2001 (Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki over A’s first baseman Jason Giambi, 289-281, 1981 (Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Rollie Fingers over A’s left fielder Rickey Henderson, 319-308) and 1999 (Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez over Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, 252-239).

There was one tie in the National League in 1979 when first basemen Keith Hernandez of the St. Louis Cardinals and Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates each received 216 points. Other tighter NL elections: 1944 (Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion over Chicago Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson, 190-189), 1955 (Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella over Dodgers center fielder Duke Snider, 226-221), 1962 (Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills over San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays, 209-202), 1957 (Milwaukee Braves right fielder Henry Aaron over Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial, 239-230), and 1966 (Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente over Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax, 218-208).

Morneau, 25, is the second Canadian-born player elected MVP. The other was Larry Walker in the NL for the Colorado Rockies in 1997. Previous winners for the Twins were Zoilo Versalles in 1965, Harmon Killebrew in 1969 and Rod Carew in 1977. The Yankees have had 19 winners, a record. This was the 20th time a Yankees player ran second. Other Yankees runners-up were Mantle (1960, ’61, ’64), Lou Gehrig (1931-32), Joe DiMaggio (1937, ’48), Yogi Berra (1953, ’56), Bill Dickey (1938), Phil Rizzuto (1949), Allie Reynolds (1952), Bob Turley (1958), Bobby Richardson (1962), Ron Guidry (1978), Reggie Jackson (1980), Don Mattingly (1986), Tino Martinez (1997) and Gary Sheffield (2004).

The vote:

2006 AL MVP

Justin MorneauMinnesota Twins15832320
Derek JeterNew York Yankees121411306
David OrtizBoston Red Sox1115731193
Frank ThomasOakland Athletics347741174
Jermaine DyeChicago White Sox12657421156
Joe MauerMinnesota Twins36125321116
Johan SantanaMinnesota Twins151333113114
Travis HafnerCleveland Indians12473264
Vladimir GuerreroLos Angeles Angels234646
Carlos GuillenDetroit Tigers1332334
Grady SizemoreCleveland Indians1112724
Jim ThomeChicago White Sox1317
Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees12113
Jason GiambiNew York Yankees12` 9
Johnny DamonNew York Yankees117
Justin VerlanderDetroit Tigers117
Ichiro SuzukiSeattle Mariners117
Joe NathanMinnesota Twins116
Manny RamirezBoston Red Sox1116
Miguel TejadaBaltimore Orioles215
Raul IbanezSeattle Mariners114
Robinson CanoNew York Yankees13
Paul KonerkoChicago White Sox13
Magglio OrdonezDetroit Tigers13
Vernon WellsToronto Blue Jays113
Carl CrawfordTampa Bay Devil Rays12
Mariano RiveraNew York Yankees12
Kenny RogersDetroit Tigers12
Chien-Ming WangNew York Yankees12
Troy GlausToronto Blue Jays11
Gary Matthews Jr.Texas Rangers11
A.J. PierzynskiChicago White Sox11
Michael YoungTexas Rangers11