Ichiro, Pujols run away with Rookie of the Year honors
Updated: Monday November 12, 2001 6:33 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki has a lot more confidence than the average rookie because he's not the average rookie.
The 28-year-old Seattle outfielder became the second straight Japanese player to win the American League Rookie of the Year award and wasn't surprised in the least by Monday's vote.
"I was a little embarrassed to be called a rookie here in the United States," he said through a translator. "I was so relieved today when I heard this announcement I won the Rookie of the Year award because I felt this was an award I should have won without any doubt."
Suzuki, who came to the major leagues after nine seasons in the Japanese Pacific League, received 27 of 28 first-place votes from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"To be honest with you, if I won this award, I had wanted to win unanimously," he said.
Albert Pujols of St. Louis was a unanimous choice for the National League rookie award.
"It's a pretty good honor," the 21-year-old Pujols said. "You only get it one year, and so I'm happy I got it."
Suzuki was the first rookie to win a batting title since Tony Oliva in 1964. Suzuki batted .350 with 56 stolen bases, becoming the first player to lead the major leagues in both categories since Jackie Robinson in 1949.
Suzuki's 242 hits were a rookie record and the most for anyone since Bill Terry's 254 for the 1930 New York Giants. Suzuki, the first Japanese non-pitcher in the major leagues, was the second straight Seattle player to win the award, following reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Before last year, the only Mariners' player to win had been Alvin Davis in 1984. Seattle paid the Orix Blue Wave $13,125,000 after the 2000 season for the rights to Suzuki, then gave him a three-year contract that guaranteed him $14,088,000.
Suzuki, who gets a $75,000 bonus for winning, had 138 points, easily beating Cleveland pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who had 75 points after going 17-5 with a 4.39 ERA.
Sabathia got one first-place vote, from Chris Assenheimer of the Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio.
"I just felt that Sabathia better met the criteria of what a rookie is in the truest sense of the word," said Assenheimer, who was surprised he was the only voter not to have Suzuki No. 1 on his ballot. "That's nothing against Ichiro."
Sabathia disagreed with that view and thought Suzuki was the top rookie.
"The award is for first-year players in the big leagues, and he's definitely deserving of it," he said. "There's not an argument about that at all."
Pujols got all 32 first-place votes in the NL, becoming the ninth unanimous rookie pick in the NL. The others were Frank Robinson (1956), Orlando Cepeda (1958), Willie McCovey (1959), Vince Coleman (1985), Benito Santiago (1987), Mike Piazza (1993), Raul Mondesi (1994) and Scott Rolen (1997).
Pujols set an NL rookie record with 130 RBIs, and led the Cardinals with a .329 average, 37 homers and 112 runs. He won the award one day after St. Louis teammate Mark McGwire announced his retirement.
"It shocked me when I heard that last night," Pujols said.
He played 78 games in the outfield, 55 at third base and 43 at first base in becoming the sixth St. Louis player to win the rookie award. The others were Wally Moon (1954), Bill Virdon (1955), Bake McBride (1974), Coleman, and Todd Worrell (1986).
Pujols isn't sure where he'll play next season.
"To me, it doesn't matter," Pujols said. "I'm just going to be ready this offseason and go to spring training and try to make the team again."
Pujols got 160 points, followed by Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt with 82, and Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins with 44. St. Louis pitcher Bud Smith and Cincinnati outfielder Adam Dunn had one point each.
Oswalt went 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA, and Rollins hit .274 with 14 homers, 54 RBIs and 46 steals.
Both rookie award winners were announced on the same day this year because of the one-week delay in the World Series caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.