11/05/2003 12:00 PM ET
Pujols named the best by his peers
ST. LOUIS -- If Albert Pujols doesn't bring home MVP honors in the National League, it will be about the only major award he doesn't win for his historic 2003 season. Pujols was named the recipient of the Players' Choice Award as the player of the year in Major League Baseball, as well as the Outstanding Player in the National League. Members of the Major League Baseball Players Association vote on the awards.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Pujols already received the Hank Aaron Award as the premier offensive player in the National League, and he was named the Major League Player of the Year by Sporting News. In addition, he received a Silver Slugger as one of the three top offensive outfielders in the NL. He is the second Cardinal to be the Players' Choice player of the year; Mark McGwire won the award for his record-setting 70-homer season in 1998.
"It's just an honor to get this award," he said. "It's one of those awards that shows a lot of respect that the players have for me and the year that I had. There were so many players around the league that had a great year and all the players voted for me."
The third-year player won the National League batting title, hitting .359 -- the first right-handed hitter to lead the NL in batting average since 1993. He racked up 43 homers, 51 doubles, 212 hits, 124 RBIs and 137 runs scored. Pujols posted a .439 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage. He placed in the top five in the league in each of those categories, and led the loop in runs, hits and doubles as well as average. He was named Player of the Month twice.
His consistency has earned him as many plaudits as anything. Pujols rarely slumps, and he hit at least .313 in every month of the 2003 season. His "worst" single-month on-base percentage was .394, and he posted a slugging percentage of at least .566 in each month. He pummeled both right- and left-handed pitchers, and put up top-flight numbers at home and on the road.
"You need to study the pitchers," said Pujols, who is developing a reputation as one of the game's most studious hitters. "I'm really early -- if you've got a 7 o'clock game, I'm at the park at 2:30. As soon as I leave my house, I'm thinking already what I'm gonna do in that game. And when I got to the park, if there's a guy I faced already, I watch the tape. It doesn't matter if I've had success against that pitcher."
Pujols, who was the unanimous rookie of the year in 2001 and the runner-up for the MVP award last season, took a major step forward in national exposure this year. He started the All-Star Game for the first time and drew a great deal of attention for his 30-game hitting streak. With 114 homers in his first three Major League seasons, Pujols tied an record set by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner.
His peers have recognized him as the best in the business. Now, all that's left is to see if the Baseball Writers Association agrees. But having been named the best in either league twice already, he's not too worried.
"It's sweeter to win the Player of the Year chosen by the players," he said. "That makes it even sweeter. MVP is great, and its one of the awards that you really want to win, but it's one of the hardest awards to get. Being Player of the Year and chosen by the players around the league, I think it's great. It's just an honor to have."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.