Joe Mauer, who led the Twins to an improbable comeback to win the AL Central, and Albert Pujols, who established new heights in his Hall-of-Fame career, were selected by their peers for 2009 Players Choice Awards as the outstanding players in their leagues.
10/29/2009 1:17 PM ET
Mauer, Pujols named top players
Historic seasons earned catcher, first baseman the awards
The Outstanding Player awards were announced on Thursday in separate segments of ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning show that were sponsored by Upper Deck.
On Monday, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox and J.A. Happ of the Phillies were named the outstanding rookies in their leagues. On Tuesday, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays were named the outstanding comeback players in their league. On Wednesday Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals were named the outstanding players in each league.
The Players Choice Awards announcements culminate Friday with the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, which goes to the player whose on- and off-the-field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement, and the overall Player of the Year. Both Mauer and Pujols, along with Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, are also finalists for the Player of the Year award and Pujols, along with Curtis Granderson and Torii Hunter, is a finalist for the Marvin Miller award.
Only 26, Mauer became the first catcher to win three batting titles, with an MLB-best .365 average. He's also the first catcher to lead the league in average, on-base percentage (.444) and slugging (.587) in a single year, and he established personal bests with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs despite missing the first month of the season with a back injury.
"Coming into the year, my main goal was to try and stay healthy and on the field, catching every day and on the field every day, " Mauer told Mike and Mike in the Morning hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. "If you told me I was going to have the year I did while I was going through that injury stuff ... I would have taken anything."
When he returned to the lineup on May 1, Mauer hit a home run on his first swing of the season. He also earned his third All-Star Game berth and led the charge as the Twins, who trailed the Tigers by seven games at the start of September, won 17 of their last 21 games to finish the season tied atop the AL Central.
"It was like we were in the playoffs the last two weeks of the season," Mauer said. "That Game 163 was probably the best game I've ever been part of."
This is the seventh Players Choice Award for Pujols, dating from to 2001 when he received the NL Outstanding Rookie Award to 2008 when he won both the NL Outstanding Player and the overall Player of the Year. But that's to be expected when you hit better than .300 with 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs for nine consecutive seasons.
But it wasn't just another season for the 29-year-old slugger from the Dominican Republic. He also won his first home run title with a Major League-leading 47.
"I just thank God for giving me this ability and talent to play this game," Pujols said. "So many players had great years -- Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard -- so it's really humbling to receive this award from the players."
Each 2009 Players Choice Award winner recommends the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
Neither Mauer nor Pujols has selected the specific charities that will benefit from their Players Trust grants.
"I think I'm going to spread it out with various groups within the Twin Cities area," Mauer said. "I'm involved in a lot of different things, mostly focused on kids. I know a lot of charities that are going to be excited."
The Players Choice Awards are selected by the players themselves in balloting conducted in September under the supervision of the accounting firm KPMG. The 2009 Players Choice Awards are being presented by Upper Deck.
The 2009 Players Choice Awards finalists are [winners in bold]:
Outstanding Rookie: Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Jeff Niemann (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player: Russell Branyan (Seattle), Aaron Hill (Toronto) , Scott Podsednik (Chicago White Sox)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Zack Greinke (Kansas City), C.C. Sabathia (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Player: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Joe Mauer (Minnesota) , Kendry Morales (LA Angels of Anaheim)
Outstanding Rookie: Chris Coghlan (Florida), Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), J.A. Happ (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Aaron Boone (Houston), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis) , Nick Johnson (Florida)
Outstanding Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis) , Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Torii Hunter (LA Angeles of Anaheim), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Player of Year: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)