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Ichiro Suzuki Wins AL MVP Award

Author Joan Didion
GETTY IMAGES/Brad Barket
Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki became only the second rookie to win a Most Valuable Player Award, narrowly beating Jason Giambi for the American League honor Tuesday.

Suzuki, who came to the major leagues after nine seasons in Japan's Pacific League, received 11 first-place votes and 289 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Giambi, last year's AL MVP, got eight first-place votes and 281 points.

It was the tightest MVP race since Juan Gonzalez defeated Alex Rodriguez 290-287 for the 1996 AL award and tied for the 10th-narrowest victory margin since MVP awards began in 1931.

The only other rookie to win the MVP was Boston's Fred Lynn in 1975.

Last week, Suzuki received 27 of 28 first-place votes in balloting for AL Rookie of the Year.

Suzuki, the first rookie to win a batting title since Tony Oliva in 1964, led the major leagues with a .350 average and 56 stolen bases. His 242 hits were a rookie record and the most for anyone since Bill Terry's 254 for the 1930 New York Giants.

Giambi batted .342 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs for the Oakland Athletics, then became a free agent after the World Series. He is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents, and the New York Yankees intend to aggressively court him.

Seattle second baseman Bret Boone, who hit .331 with 37 homers and 141 RBIs, was third in the balloting with seven first-place votes and 259 points, followed by Cleveland second baseman Roberto Alomar (165), Gonzalez (156) and Rodriguez (141).

Seattle paid the Orix Blue Wave $13,125,000 after the 2000 season for the rights to Suzuki, then gave him a three-year contract that guaranteed him $14,088,000.

Suzuki, who got a $75,000 bonus for winning the rookie award, gets a $150,000 bonus for the MVP. Giambi gets $75,000 for finishing second, Alomar $100,000 for fourth, Gonzalez $100,000 for fifth and Rodriguez $50,000 for sixth.

By finishing seventh, Cleveland's Jim Thome increased his 2002 base salary from $7.8 million to $8 million.

San Francisco's Barry Bonds won the NL MVP award on Monday, becoming the first four-time MVP.

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