Bonds wins 3rd straight; Pujols distant 2nd

Updated: November 19, 2003, 6:44 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Barry Bonds won his record sixth National League MVP award Tuesday, becoming the first player to get the honor in three consecutive years.

Hardware Heroes
The top MVP winners in each of the four major professional sports leagues:
League Athlete No.
NHL Wayne Gretzky 9
Years (Hart Trophy): 1980-87, 1989
MLB Barry Bonds 6
Years (NL): 1990, 1992-93, 2001-03
NBA Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 6
Years: 1971-72, 1974, 1976-77, 1980
NFL Jim Brown 4
Years: 1957 (AP), 1958 (UPI), 1963 (UPI/Bell), 1965 (UPI/AP). Shared MVP honors with Y.A. Tittle (UPI) in '57; Gino Marchetti (AP) in '58; Tittle (AP) in '63; and Pete Retzlaff (Bell) in '65.

The San Francisco Giants outfielder, the only player to win an MVP award more than three times, received 28 of 32 first-place votes and 426 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Albert Pujols was second with three first-place votes and 303 points. Atlanta Braves outfielder Gary Sheffield got the other first-place vote and was third with 247 points.

At 39 years, 3 months, Bonds is the second-oldest MVP, trailing Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell, who was a few months older when he tied for the award in 1979.

Bonds had a difficult season in which his father, Bobby, died in August. Still, Bonds hit .341 with 45 homers and 90 RBI, leading the major leagues in slugging percentage (.749), on-base percentage (.529) and walks.

"This award is more special to me than any award I've ever received because it's dedicated to my father," Bonds said during a conference call. "He has been my hitting coach my entire life, ever since I was a little kid. I miss him dearly. It's a really emotional time for me right now."

This is Barry Bonds' sixth MVP award, but it could easily be his seventh because he's had a couple of close second-place finishes in years he probably deserved to win. It's simply incredible for one guy to dominate a sport like that.

Without a doubt, Bonds would have gotten my MVP vote (if I had one) this year. Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield had tremendous years, with Triple Crown-type numbers. But if opponents had to pitch to Bonds, he'd threaten for the Triple Crown every year.

Bonds hits for average, power and run-production. Then there's his on-base percentage ... above .500 for the third straight year! And his slugging percentage has averaged in the neighborhood of .800 the past three years. The combination of abilities reflected in these statistics makes Bonds one of the greatest players of all time.

Is he the best of all time? To me, it's impossible to compare ballplayers from era to era. So much was different in past eras: the ballparks, the baseball, the travel, the use of the bullpen. All that makes it difficult to make a definitive statement that Bonds (or anyone else) is the best of all time. But, without question, Bonds is the best ballplayer of his era. And you can certainly make a case that he's the best ballplayer of all time.

Looking ahead, Bonds can win another MVP (or even more) if he wants to. He keeps his body in top physical shape. He just has to decide if he wants to continue to push himself. How important is the all-time HR crown to him? If he wants it, I believe it's his.

Among the four major North American professional sports, only the NHL's Wayne Gretzky has more MVP awards, with nine. The NBA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also won six MVPs.

"To be able to say you've won this award six times, there's no words for it," Bonds said.

Pujols hit a major league-high .359 with 43 homers and 124 RBI and led the major leagues with 137 runs. He became just the 10th player to finish second in consecutive MVP votes, the first since the Dodgers' Mike Piazza in 1996 and 1997.

San Francisco players have won the award four straight times, with Jeff Kent finishing first in the 2000 vote. The Yankees accomplished that feat twice with Yogi Berra (1954-55) and Mickey Mantle (1956-57), and Roger Maris (1960-61), Mantle (1962) and Elston Howard (1963).

Bonds gets a $500,000 bonus for winning the award. Sheffield, who became a free agent after the season, earned $75,000 for finishing third. Florida's Juan Pierre gets $200,000 for finishing 10th.

Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, Don Ketchum of The Arizona Republic and Bill Zack of Morris News Service, who covers the Braves, voted Pujols first. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch voted Sheffield first.

During the conference call, Bonds defended his decision to withdraw from the Major League Baseball Players Association's licensing program starting next season. He wants to control his likeness as he approaches Hank Aaron's career home-run record of 755. Bonds is fourth with 658, also trailing Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660), Bonds' godfather.

"I felt I've really been misrepresented throughout my career as a bad guy, bad person," Bonds said. "This gives the licensees an opportunity to really know me."

By going on his own, Bonds said he will be able to give back to the community and fund projects.

Bonds declined to comment on Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a nutritional supplements lab whose founder is a target of a grand jury investigation. On Monday, an attorney for Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, confirmed his client also is a target of the probe.

Bonds and other athletes have been subpoenaed to testify by a federal grand jury.

He welcomed the start of steroid testing with penalties in baseball next season. The testing was triggered when more than 5 percent of tests this year came back positive in an anonymous survey.

"I am glad there is going to be testing," he said. "I am glad that, hopefully, hopefully, it will diminish a lot of everyone's speculation, and everyone can just move on."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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