Canadian Morneau wins AL MVP

Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., made history Tuesday by becoming the first Canadian named the American League's most valuable player.

Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., made history Tuesday by being named the American League's most valuable player, the first Canadian to win the award.

Morneau, 25, earned 15 first-place votes and 320 points, 14 points ahead of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who had 12 first-place votesin ballots castby members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox designated hitter, was third with 193 points.

"Honestly, I didn't sleep that well [on Monday night]," said Morneau. "I don't usually get too nervous about this kind of thing, just because you have no clue, you hear so many different things.

"You hear co-MVP coming out this morning, then you're hearing you might win it, you might be second, it's just one of those things you want to hear it and get it over with."

In his fourth season with the Twins, Morneau collected 190 hits, smacked 34 home runs and drove in 130 runs in 2006. He also sported an impressive .321 average in 592 at-bats.

Although the first Canadian to win the AL honour, Morneau is not the first to be named a league MVP. Former Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., was cited by the National League in 1997.

"To be put next to a guy, who in my opinion should be in the Hall of Fame, the greatest Canadian position player that's ever played, to be alongside him is a real honour," Morneau said of Walker.

Morneau slumped through the first two months of the 2006 season, but quickly turned things around. After June 8,he had the best batting average (.362) and the most hits (145) in Major League Baseball,and the most RBIs in the AL (92) during that stretch.

It was his offensive output that helped turn around a Twins club that started the seasonwith a 25-33 record through June 7. The team went 71-33 the rest of the way to win the AL Central crown.

"There wasn't anywhere to go but up," a laughing Morneau told CBC Sports Online in August. "I just wanted to get a hit so bad. I had to learn to be more patient."

Morneau credited extra practicefor gettingout of a battling slump that had plagued him since the second half of last season.

"I started hitting earlier batting practice,"said Morneau,who hits left. "I started feeling good, stood better [on my back foot] to better recognize pitches and got a little confidence."

Morneau is the second Twins playerto win a major award this season, joining pitcher Johan Santana, the AL's Cy Young Award winner.

Morneau joins Zoilo Versalles (1965), Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977) as the only Twins players to win the AL MVP.

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard won the National League MVP award on Monday.

With files from Canadian Press