Rangers' Josh Hamilton wins AL MVP

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was named the American League Most Valuable Player on Tuesday, reaching a peak after years of being derailed by drugs and alcohol.

"I would say a 99 percent chance that this would never happen," said Hamilton, who became the franchise's fifth MVP. "I mean, honestly, I think a lot of people would agree with that."

Hamilton is the first Rangers player to win the award since Alex Rodriguez in 2003, and he also joins former Rangers winners Jeff Burroughs (1974), Juan Gonzalez (1996 and 1998) and Ivan Rodriguez (1999).

Hamilton was first on 22 of 28 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for the award. He was second on four ballots and fourth on two others for a total of 358 points.

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers finished second in the voting with five first-place votes and 262 points. Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees was third at 229 and Jose Bautista of Toronto fourth with 165. Bautista also picked up a first-place vote. Chicago's Paul Konerko was fifth with 130 points.

Hamilton, Cabrera, Cano and Bautista were named on every ballot. A total of 20 players received votes.

"It's an absolutely great honor," Hamilton said on a conference call Tuesday. "There's a lot of players in the league [qualified] to get this accomplishment -- this award speaks volumes. To be voted on by the writers, I really appreciate that. It's awesome, but at the same time I told some of you guys earlier in the year, if I could give up the MVP to go into the playoffs and win in the playoffs I would definitely do that. To do both, I just thank God for that."

Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star, Tom Gage of The Detroit News, Scot Gregor of The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, Jim Ingraham of The News-Herald of Willoughby, Ohio and Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers voted Cabrera first. Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press cast the first-place vote for Bautista.

Hamilton receives a $100,000 bonus, Cabrera $200,000 and Konerko $60,000 for finishing fifth. Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria was sixth, followed by teammate Carl Crawford, and each gets $25,000.

Hamilton has had a well documented battle with substance abuse in the past, and his teammates even celebrated playoff victories by showering him in ginger ale. After going on the disabled list in 2001 while in the minor leagues, he became addicted to alcohol and cocaine. He didn't play from 2003 to '05. Hamilton, who overcame eight trips to rehabilitation for addiction, said he reflects on how far he has come.

"I think I lose sight of things and I think if I didn't reflect a little ego might start sneaking in there and that's one thing I don't want to happen, so I do reflect and I think about where I was at my lowest time and how God has brought me through that and sustained me," he said. "It's just awesome to think about where I am at this moment and where I was."

Teammates say his story motivates them.

"It's awesome, everybody makes mistakes in their lives and everybody deserves a second chance," Rangers teammate David Murphy said before voting was announced. "A lot of people don't take advantage of that second chance. But he took it and he ran with it."

Hamilton helped the Rangers win the AL West for the first time in 11 years and was the MVP of the American League Championship Series.

"We don't do what we did this year without him," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said.

Hamilton, 29, led the majors with a .359 batting average and a .633 slugging percentage. He was also in the top six among AL leaders in on-base percentage (.411, second), total bases (328, fourth), hits (186, T-sixth), multihit games (53, T-fifth), extra-base hits (75, fifth) and home runs (32, T-fifth). He was the first AL player with a minimum of a .359 average, 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs since Lou Gehrig in 1934. And he wins the MVP despite missing most of the final month of the regular season with two fractured ribs.

Hamilton was asked what he thought the MVP award meant.

"Hopefully, Most Valuable Player is somebody who excels obviously at their position, with the bat, but has done things each night, whatever that might be, that helps their team win," he said. "I think I did that the majority of the season. I helped us get somewhere we've never been before as a Rangers organization. I have to give thanks to all my teammates for helping me as much as I helped them."

Hamilton also had kind words for the competition, especially Cabrera.

"It was unbelievable. Every time you turn on the TV, just watching him play, watching his swing is a beautiful thing to watch," he said. "He's an all-around great player."

Hamilton was a clutch hitter for the Rangers, batting .370 with two outs in 2010 -- highest in the majors. He hit .369 with runners in scoring position, leading the AL.

Hamilton did all of it despite a slow start to the season, when he batted just .205 in the first 13 games of April. Hamilton's average was up to .281 through the end of May.

But June was what really got the season going for him. He eliminated his toe tap at the beginning of the month, and that coincided with more comfort and confidence at the plate. Hamilton hit .454 for the month with 31 RBIs, 49 hits, 88 total bases, a .815 slugging percentage and a .482 on-base percentage, all of which led the majors for the month. He hit nine home runs, which led the AL.

"I think taking the toe tap out of my swing helped me tremendously, to be able to see pitches better," Hamilton said. "A lot of movement was taken out. And when there's a lot of movement, a lot of things can go wrong and you don't have very long to react when you're up there. So it kind of slowed things down a little bit for me by taking that toe tap out."

June was a critical month for the Rangers, who went 21-6 to take the AL West lead, which they didn't relinquish the rest of the season.

Hamilton hit .384 after the All-Star break, helping put the Rangers in position to make their first playoff appearance since 1999. But it wasn't just his play at the plate that made him an MVP in 2010. Hamilton was a solid defender, playing left and center during the season. His speed allowed him to run down balls and he made plenty of highlight-reel plays, diving for balls and scaling walls. He stole eight bases, but also didn't hesitate to stretch out singles for doubles and was aggressive about getting himself into scoring position.

Hamilton's signature game of 2010 came on Aug. 13 against the Red Sox. He showed off all of his tools, almost single-handedly leading the Rangers to a come-from-behind victory. Hamilton was 4-for-5 with a double and a homer. He scored four runs, none more memorable than his scamper from second on an infield single in the eighth inning to tie the score after Texas had fallen behind 8-2.

"Shortstop went to his left, Josh didn't stop and he beat the throw by 15 feet," Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson said after the game. "It wasn't even close. MVP moment."

Hamilton ended up winning MVP honors for his play in the ALCS. The BBWAA MVP is voted on before postseason play begins, but the six-game series showed how valuable he is to the Rangers. Hamilton hit .350 with four homers in the series and was intentionally walked five times. His mere presence altered the clinching Game 6 as he was walked intentionally late in the game by the Yankees so they could pitch to Guerrero, who made them pay with a big two-run double that broke open a tie game.

Hamilton was acquired by the Rangers on Dec. 21, 2007 for right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez and left-handed pitcher Danny Ray Herrera. Hamilton has made two All-Star appearances as a member of the Rangers and has hit at least 30 homers and driven in 100 runs in two of his three seasons.

Selected by Tampa Bay with the top pick in the 1999 amateur draft, Hamilton didn't make an impact in the majors until 2008, when he won the All-Star Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium and led the AL with 130 RBIs.

Injuries limited Hamilton to 89 games the following year, when he hit .268 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.