Twins’ Joe Mauer nearly unanimous choice for AL MVP

Joe Mauer, who won an unprecedented third batting championship for a catcher and helped propel the Minnesota Twins to the American League Central title, was elected the AL Most Valuable Player for 2009 in balloting by the BBWAA.

Mauer, the first catcher to lead his league in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging (.587) in the same season, was listed first on all but one of the 28 ballots cast by two writers in each league city. He was second on that other ballot to score a total of 387 points, based on a tabulation system rewarding 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third on down to one for 10th.

The other first-place vote was cast for Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.324, 34 HR, 103 RBI), who finished fourth in the overall balloting with 171 points, behind a pair of New York Yankees teammates, first baseman Mark Teixeira (.292, 39 HR, 122 RBI, 103 R) and shortstop Derek Jeter (.334, 18 HR, 107 R, 30 SB).

Teixeira, who led the league in runs batted in and total bases (344) and tied Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena for the lead in home runs, totaled 225 points and Jeter 193. Teixeira’s best previous finish in MVP voting was seventh in 2005 for the Texas Rangers. Jeter also finished third in 1998 and was the runner-up in 2006. Mauer, Teixeira, Jeter and Cabrera were named on every ballot. In all, 27 players gained mention.

Rounding out the top 10 were Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman Kendry Morales (.306, 34 HR, 108 RBI), Boston Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis (.305, 27 HR, 94 RBI), Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay (.267, 36 HR, 119 RBI, 103 R), Tampa Bay Rays second baseman-outfielder Ben Zobrist (.297, 27 HR, 91 RBI), Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (.353, 225 H, 26 SB), Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (.286, 30 HR, 100 RBI) and Angels third baseman Chone Figgins (.298, 114 R, 101 BB, 42 SB).

Mauer, 26, is the only AL catcher to have won a batting title and the only one in either league to have won three of them. His .365 average, the highest by a catcher in major league history, surpassed his prior league-leading figures of .347 in 2006 and .328 in 2008. Mauer posted career-high totals in home runs (28) and runs batted in (96).

He did not start the season until May 1 due to a back injury and helped keep the Twins in contention for the division title following the loss to injury of first baseman Justin Morneau, the 2006 MVP and ’08 runner-up. Mauer batted .378 with two home runs and 14 RBI in the club’s final 21 games of the regular season.

It marked the eighth time a catcher won the award in the AL and the first since the Rangers’ Ivan Rodriguez in 1999. Yogi Berra won three times (1951, ’54-55) with the Yankees. Two other winners were also with the Yankees, Elston Howard in 1963 and Thurman Munson in 1976. The other AL catcher to win was the Tigers’ Mickey Cochrane in 1934.

A catcher has been the MVP in the National League seven times. Ernie Lombardi, the previous record holder for batting titles by a catcher with two (.342 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938 and .330 for the Boston Braves in 1942), was the 1938 winner. The others were three-time winner Roy Campanella (1951, ’53, ’55), two-time winner Johnny Bench (1970, ’72) and Gabby Hartnett (1935).

Mauer is the fifth Twins player honored, joining Morneau, Zoilo Versalles (1965), Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977).

The Yankees have the highest number of MVP winners with 20. The finish by Teixeira marked the 21st time a Yankees player ran second. Other Yankees runners-up were Berra (1953, ’56), Jeter (2006), Mickey Mantle (1960, ’61, ’64), Joe DiMaggio (1937, ’48), Lou Gehrig (1931-32), 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 voting:

2009 AL MVP

Joe Mauer, Twins271387
Mark Teixeira, Yankees1564111225
Derek Jeter, Yankees95353111193
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers115843213171
Kendry Morales, Angels391032170
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox27342241150
Jason Bay, Red Sox114545178
Ben Zobrist, Rays1431234
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners244333
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees132131
Chone Figgins, Angels312331
Aaron Hill, Blue Jays122323
Bobby Abreu, Angels2111423
Mariano Rivera, Yankees21117
Adam Lind, Blue Jays112314
Michael Young, Rangers112213
Zack Greinke, Royals111112
Robinson Cano, Yankees312
Evan Longoria, Rays1119
Justin Verlander, Tigers117
CC Sabathia, Yankees14
Michael Cuddyer, Twins114
Martinez, Indians/Red Sox24
Jason Kubel, Twins13
Placido Polanco, Tigers12
Felix Hernandez, Mariners11
Ian Kinsler, Rangers11