Pedroia beats out Morneau to win AL MVP

NEW YORK -- Dustin Pedroia could easily be mistaken for a mechanic, carpenter or plumber, most anything except a major leaguer.

"I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I don't have that many tools," he said. "If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't think I'm a baseball player."

Well, not unless he was carrying his AL MVP award.

Pedroia added to his ever-expanding trophy case Tuesday, becoming the first second baseman to earn the honor in nearly a half-century.

The Boston little man with the meaty swing easily beat out Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau, Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis and record-setting Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez in a scattered ballot that saw five different players draw first place-votes.

Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Pedroia has quickly piled up a huge stack of hardware. Earlier this month, he won the Gold Glove. He was the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and capped off that season with a World Series ring.

"I had to overcome a lot of things to prove people wrong, and so far I've done that," he said on a conference call from his home in Arizona. "I have to find a way to have that edge."

Pedroia drew 16 of the 28 first-place votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and finished with 317 points. He was even left off one ballot, while Morneau and Youkilis were listed on every one.

"You look around the league, there are a ton of great players," Pedroia said.

Pedroia led the AL in hits, runs and doubles in helping the Red Sox win the wild-card berth. He batted .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs and also stole 20 bases.

Pedroia became a fan favorite at Fenway Park with his scrappy approach. In a lineup depleted by injuries to David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew and the midseason trade of Manny Ramirez, Pedroia took his hearty hacks wherever needed -- while he usually batted second, he also hit leadoff and cleanup.

"He's such a good player," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "When the game's on the line, he's a better player."

An improved one, too, from his rookie year.

"I thought his whole game got better. I think he got more dangerous at the plate," Francona said. "He never gives away an at-bat."

Nellie Fox was the previous second baseman to become AL MVP, in 1959 with the Chicago White Sox. No position has produced fewer MVPs overall -- just 10 overall since the AL and NL awards were first presented in 1931.

Pedroia was the fourth second baseman to win the AL MVP award, along with Fox, Joe Gordon (1942) and Charlie Gehringer (1937). Six second basemen have won the NL honor, with Jeff Kent, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan doing it most recently.

Pedroia and his wife originally planned to leave early this week for a vacation in Mexico. But with the MVP vote looming, a Red Sox official suggested he delay the trip by a day or two, just in case.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Pedroia said. "I wasn't nervous or overly excited."

Pedroia certainly didn't plan on this. He made just $457,000 last season and didn't have an MVP bonus provision in his contract.

Pedroia was driving to his daily workout when he got the phone call telling him he'd won. Right away, the calls and text messages from teammates began pouring in.

"It's unbelievable," he said.

Pedroia became the 10th Red Sox player to take the award and first since Mo Vaughn in 1995. He is also just the third player to become MVP the season after earning the rookie of the year award, joining Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard.

Morneau got seven first-place votes and had 257 points, and Youkilis and Twins catcher Joe Mauer each got a pair of first-place votes. Rodriguez drew the other first-place nod and came in sixth.

Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP winner, hit .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs in helping the Twins reach a one-game playoff for the AL Central, which they lost to Chicago.

Youkilis (.312, 29, 115) was third with 201 points and Mauer (.328, 9, 85) was next with 188 points.

White Sox star Carlos Quentin, who was leading the AL with 36 home runs when he broke his right wrist in an act of frustration, was fifth with 160 points. Rodriguez, who went 62-for-69 in save chances and recently filed for free agency, drew 143 points.

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who made a remarkable recovery from drug addiction to resume his career, was seventh and followed by last year's winner, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena came in ninth, the top vote-getter from the AL champions. The Rays beat Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Morneau earned $75,000 for his MVP finish and Mauer, Youkilis and Pena got $25,000 each.

The AL MVP was the last of the major BBWAA awards presented this year. Albert Pujols won the NL MVP award Monday and last week Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum won Cy Youngs, Joe Maddon and Lou Piniella were picked as managers of the year and Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto were the top rookies.