NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez showed slick fielding counts, winning his second American League Most Valuable Player award in three seasons by defeating David Ortiz in a vote that rewarded an all-around player over a designated hitter.
Rodriguez, in his second season as the New York Yankees' third baseman, received 16 first-place votes, 11 seconds and one third for 331 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America in balloting announced Monday.
Ortiz, the DH for the Boston Red Sox, got 11 firsts and 17 seconds for 307 points. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero received the other first-place vote and was third with 196 points.
"I think defense, for the most part, being a balanced player and also saving a lot of runs on the defensive side, I think was a major factor here," Rodriguez said. "To me, defense is foremost. It's always been. The White Sox showed us this year pitching and defense wins to this day."
Voting was done before the start of the postseason, when both the Yankees and Red Sox were eliminated in the first round. Rodriguez hit .133 with no RBIs in a five-game loss to the Angels while Ortiz batted .333 with a home run as the defending champion Red Sox were swept by the Chicago White Sox.
"I would certainly trade his World Series championship for this MVP trophy," Rodriguez said, thinking back to Boston's 2004 title. "That's the only reason I play baseball. It's what I'm consumed to do right now."
Rodriguez hit .321 with an AL-high 48 homers, 130 RBIs and 21 steals, breaking Joe DiMaggio's 68-year-old Yankees record for home runs by a right-handed hitter (46). A-Rod also won the award in 2003, his final season as the Texas Rangers' shortstop before he was dealt to the Yankees.
He didn't think the award would end criticism that he doesn't perform in the clutch or isn't a winner.
"We can win three World Series, with me, it's never going to be over. I think my benchmark is so high that no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough, and I understand that," he said. "Maybe when I retire is when all critics and all that kind of stuff will end."
Ortiz batted .300 with 47 homers, a major league-leading 148 RBIs and one steal. Big Papi had 34 RBIs that put his team ahead, the most in the AL, and had eight RBIs from the seventh inning on that gave Boston the lead for good.
"He is the one special player right now, like Barry Bonds, who can change the game around simply with his batting," Rodriguez said.
Ortiz could not be reached for comment.
"Without David, we don't make the postseason. David made an enormous impact on this team, and you can't understate his impact in the clubhouse," Red Sox teammate Curt Schilling said. "Congratulations to Alex. Either one of them could have won it. Both had MVP years."
Rodriguez became the first Yankees player to win the award since Don Mattingly in 1985 and only the fourth player to win an MVP with two teams, joining Bonds (Pittsburgh and San Francisco), Jimmie Foxx (Philadelphia Athletics and Red Sox) and Frank Robinson (Cincinnati and Baltimore).
"I'm very pleased with the year he had," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's getting more comfortable here in New York. Alex helped us win so many games, both offensively and defensively, and he continues to improve."
Still, A-Rod would have had a different approach in October if he had a chance against the Angels, who tried to pitch around him.
"My one regret is I thought I could have walked 10 or 12 times and really just passed the baton and been a little bit more patient," he said. "Probably at the end, I got a little overanxious."
A-Rod also is the fourth to win at two positions, following Detroit's Hank Greenberg (first base and left field), the St. Louis Cardinals' Stan Musial (outfield and first base) and the Milwaukee Brewers' Robin Yount (shortstop and center field).
The Yankees have won the award 19 times, the most of any team.
"A-Rod demonstrates the talent, hard work, and dedication of a true winner," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "I look forward to great things for many years from A-Rod as a Yankee."
Rodriguez also spoke publicly for the first time about a report in the New York Daily News this month that he was at a New York poker club. Playing at such clubs is not illegal, though it can be against the law to operate them, the Daily News reported.
"Obviously, it wasn't the right thing to do," he said. "In retrospect, it's probably a place I shouldn't have gone."
Rodriguez gets a $1 million bonus for winning the MVP for the second time during his record $252 million, 10-year contract. With Ortiz's second-place finish, the price of Boston's 2007 club option increases by $400,000 to $8.4 million. The buyout goes up by the same amount to $1.4 million.
Guerrero got $200,000 for finishing third and Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez gets $75,000 for placing fourth.
Cleveland DH Travis Hafner was fifth and earned an automatic $200,000 annual raise to $2.7 million next year and $3.95 million in 2007, with the price of Cleveland's 2008 option rising to $4.95 million.
AL MVP votes
NEW YORK (AP) — 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
Rodriguez, NY 16 11 1 331
Ortiz, Boston 11 17 — 307
Guerrero, LA 1 — 9 196