Guerrero's late-season burst could be difference

Updated: November 16, 2004, 11:02 AM ET

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Anaheim Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero carried his team down the stretch. Boston Red Sox sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were solid from start to finish. All three are among the leading contenders for American League Most Valuable Player honors.

Since the ballots of major league writers have to be returned at the end of the regular season, the fact that Ortiz and Ramirez led the Red Sox to the World Series title will have no bearing on the voting.

But it was the final weeks of the regular season that could give Guerrero the nod here. The 28-year-old right fielder was signed in the offseason to bolster the offense and did exactly that.

Guerrero hit .337 with 39 homers, 126 RBI, 124 runs and 15 stolen bases. He did his best work down the stretch, hitting .463 with nine homers and 15 RBI in his last 15 games as Anaheim overtook Oakland for the AL West Division title.

Guerrero is hoping to become the fifth player to win the award after switching leagues the previous offseason. No player has done it going from the AL to the National League.

Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Red Sox, had a second straight huge season, batting .301 with 41 homers and 139 RBI. He had 91 extra-base hits and was one of the emotional leaders on a team that overcame some touchy moments during the regular season.

Ortiz's candidacy is sure to be affected by Ramirez, Boston's fun-loving left fielder. Among the most productive sluggers of the last decade, Ramirez had another big season, batting .308 with 44 doubles, 43 homers, 130 RBI and 108 runs.

Ramirez has finished in the top 10 of the voting in each of the last six seasons but never has won the award. He is hoping to become the sixth player and first in 24 years to capture the regular season and World Series MVP honors in the same season.

Other players sure to receive consideration include New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and outfielder Gary Sheffield; Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki; Texas' Michael Young; and Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins.