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Pujols, Ichiro named top rookies for 2001 season
NEW YORK -- Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki became the second straight Japanese player to win the American League Rookie of the Year award, and Albert Pujols of St. Louis was a unanimous choice Monday for the National League honor.
Suzuki received 27 of 28 first-place votes from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The 28-year-old Suzuki came to the major leagues after nine seasons in the Japanese Pacific League and became 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.
He knew he was a lot more experienced than his competitors for the rookie prize.
"I was a little embarrassed to be called a rookie here in the United States," Suzuki 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."
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).
"It's a pretty good honor," Pujols said. "You only get it one year, and so I'm happy I got it."
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 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."
That disappointed Suzuki.
"To be honest with you, if I won this award, I had wanted to win unanimously," he said.
New York Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano was third with 35 points, and Angels shortstop David Eckstein was fourth with six.
The 21-year-old Pujols set an NL rookie record with 130 RBIs, and led the Cardinals with a .329 average, 37 homers and 112 runs.
Pujols 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, especially following the retirement of first baseman Mark McGwire on Sunday.
"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.