The Year Of The Comebacks

by Paul White SOURCE USA Today

Despite a rocky road, Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton rises from the depths of his well chronicled past to win the American League MVP as his team wins its first division title in 11 years.

Outfielder Josh Hamilton of the West champion Texas Rangers didn't need September to enhance his credentials and won the MVP Tuesday as easily as his team cruised to its first division title in 11 years.

He received 22 of the 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America and 358 points. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers was second with 262 points and five first-place votes. Toronto's Jose Bautista received the other first-place vote and finished fourth. New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was third.

The 29-year-old Hamilton added another chapter to his well-chronicled rise from the depths of substance-abuse issues by leading the AL in batting (.359), slugging percentage (.633) and on-base plus slugging (1.042). He is the first Rangers player to win the award since Alex Rodriguez in 2003. Other previous Texas winners are Juan Gonzalez (twice), Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Burroughs.

"We made a lot of history in Texas that's never been done before," Hamilton said of his team's run to the World Series. "I said during the season, if I could give up the MVP to go into the playoffs and win, I would. We did both."

Hamilton missed 24 games in September with bruised ribs after slamming into an outfield wall but, at the time of the injury, the Rangers had an eight-game division lead.

The Rangers began June in second place, a game behind Oakland. From then until his injury, Hamilton hit .410 with 22 homers and 70 RBI as Texas steadily pulled away. He hit .423 in Rangers victories, including 23 of his 32 home runs and 67 of his 100 RBI.

A former overall No. 1 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1999), Hamilton finally reached the major leagues in 2007 with Cincinnati. In between, he missed all of the 2003-05 seasons because of his off-field problems. He returned to the Tampa Bay minor league system for 15 Class A games in 2006, but the Reds added him through the Rule 5 draft that December.

Cincinnati traded Hamilton to Texas a year later for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera and he has hit .315 with 74 homers and 284 RBI in his three seasons with the Rangers and made the All-Star team each year.

Cabrera led the AL this season with 126 RBI and a .420 on-base percentage, was second in the batting race at .328 and third with 38 homers. Bautista's 54-homer explosion led the majors and his 351 total bases were tops in the AL and tied with Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez for the major league lead.

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images