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NEW YORK (AP) – Alex Rodriguez looked at the award he just received from Babe Ruth’s granddaughter with big eyes and a broad grin. It was as if he almost couldn’t believe it was his.
“Postseason MVP. Wow,” Rodriguez said Saturday night. Pausing for effect he added, “What’s next, the good guy award?”
Less than a year ago, it would have been difficult to decide which would be more preposterous for the troubled star to earn.
Rodriguez completed a tumultuous season that began with an awkward confession to past steroid use and then hip surgery that kept him out until May by being selected the winner of the Babe Ruth Award as the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s postseason MVP.
A-Rod picked up the hardware at the 87th annual New York baseball writers’ dinner Saturday night.
Rodriguez used his time away from the team to rehabilitate his hip as a period of reflection. He returned with a mantra: simplify things.
And after he told fans at the dinner that “he’d stick to the script of 2009 and keep it very, very brief,” he choked up, taking a long pause – save for a nervous laugh – to look down at the podium and smile awkwardly.
Unlike the extended pause he took during his steroids news conference, this one was broken when an attendee – the dinner was crowded with Yankees fans – shouted, “You’re the best, A-Rod!”
Rodriguez batted .365 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games in the postseason, quickly putting to rest his reputation for failing when it mattered most – he had 8 for 59 (.136) in the postseason since 2004 before going on a tear to lead New York to its 27th title.
Rodriguez thanked the fans for being patient with him after helping the Yankees win their first title since 2000. It was his first trip to the World Series in a 16-year career. He joined the Yankees in ’04.
The three-time American League MVP took great pleasure in this award.
“I’ve been to these dinners a couple of times to receive MVP awards and those, I’m very proud of those accomplishments,” he said. “But none of those accomplishments will ever compare to the feeling you get from being part of a team that won a world championship. Like Albert (Pujols), said there’s nothing like winning a World championship.”
Pujols was at the dinner to pick up his award for NL MVP. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer collected the AL MVP and the Sid Mercer-Dick Young Player of the Year Award.
During his routine, comedian and writer Bill Scheft told Mauer, who will be a free agent after the 2010 season, that all New York airports were closed and that he’ll have to stay until 2015.
Mauer’s dad Jake Mauer, who bought his first tuxedo for the event, said his family wasn’t going to push Joe to stay in Minnesota.
“Wherever he’s happy, we’re happy,” Jake Mauer said.
Among those on the dais were the Angels’ Mike Scioscia and the Rockies’ Jim Tracy, managers of the year.
Scioscia dedicated his award to the Angels’ 22-year-old rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died in a car accident on April 9.
Former Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he picked up the Arthur and Milton Richman You Gotta Have Heart Award. Boone had heart surgery this season and was able to return to the field for the Houston Astros in September.
Mets right fielder Jeff Francoeur won the Ben Epstein-Dan Castellano Good Guy Award, and teammate Carlos Beltran got the Joan Payson Award for community service. Beltran was not in attendance because he had knee surgery last week.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was not at the dinner to collect his Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award. He also shared the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award with teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as the core four of the Yankees championship teams.
Don Zimmer, whose big league career began in 1954 with the Brooklyn Dodgers won the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang Award for long and meritorious service.