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Gonzalez wins AL MVP for second time in three seasons
By Ronald Blum
Associated Press

Juan GonzalezNEW YORK (AP) - Juan Gonzalez was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player today, overwhelmingly defeating Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter to win the award for the second time in three seasons.

Gonzalez, who had the most RBIs in the AL in 49 years and led Texas to its second AL West title in three seasons, received 21 first-place votes and seven seconds for 357 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"This is a great moment for everybody, for the whole team and the organization," Gonzalez said in a conference call from Puerto Rico.

Garciaparra, who helped Boston win the AL playoff wild card, got five firsts, seven seconds and seven thirds and had 232 points.

Jeter, one of four players on the World Series champion New York Yankees to receive votes, had two firsts, six seconds and three thirds, finishing with 180 points.

Gonzalez beat Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez 290-287 to win the MVP two years ago.

"The first time was too tight," said Gonzalez, the first Latin American native to win two MVPs.

And it could be a Latin American sweep if Sammy Sosa beats Mark McGwire on Thursday for the NL MVP.

"I'm waiting for tomorrow's results ... and praying for Sammy," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez hit .318 with 45 homers and 157 RBIs, the most in the AL since Ted Williams and Vern Stephens each had 159 for Boston in 1949.

"He's a great, great hitter," McGwire said. "But you know, the sad thing, if somebody said, 'Who was the 1996 MVP in the American League?' I bet you nobody really knows - Juan Gonzalez. Every year, year in, year out, he just puts up the numbers. It just seems like he doesn't get the notoriety he should."

Gonzalez had 101 RBIs at the All-Star break, becoming only the second player to top the century mark going into the All-Star game (Hank Greenberg had 103 in 1935).

By the final week of July, he had 116 RBIs in 105 games, bringing up talk he could challenge the record of 190, set by Hack Wilson in 1930.

"It's not impossible," Gonzalez said then. "I just need to stay healthy and keep working hard."

But then he was slowed by hamstring problems, and the chance to reach that record disappeared.

Garciaparra, a unanimous choice as the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year, hit .323 with 35 homers and 122 RBIs. Jeter, a unanimous pick as the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, batted .324 with 19 homers and 84 RBIs, providing solid and sometimes spectacular play at shortstop from start to finish.

Mo Vaughn and Ken Griffey Jr. tied for fourth in the voting with 135 points each, followed by Manny Ramirez (127), Bernie Williams (103), Albert Belle (96), Rodriguez (92) and Ivan Rodriguez (60).

Gonzalez gets a $250,000 bonus for winning the award. Also getting bonuses were Garciaparra ($75,000) and Ivan Rodriguez ($50,000).

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