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Youkilis finishes third in AL MVP race

Youkilis finishes third in AL MVP race

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NEWTON, Mass. -- In the aftermath of finishing third in the American League Most Valuable Player Award, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis had a big smile on his face.

He was surrounded by wide-eyed kids at a charitable event late Tuesday afternoon. The cause was encouraging kids to embrace reading.

The way Youkilis looked at it, what could he possibly have to be upset about? His friend, teammate and winter workout partner Dustin Pedroia is the man who beat him out for MVP. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau finished third.

"I wouldn't ever say you lose an MVP race," Youkilis said. "It's more or less finishing in a certain place. Anyone who gets mentioned, that's a tremendous honor. I think losing a ballgame is a little different, or losing a series. Losing against Tampa Bay [in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series] was the worst loss of the year. When you finish third in the MVP race, I don't consider that a loss."

If anything, it was the continuation of a rise which has seen Youkilis go from core player to star.

"It's not a big deal to me," Youkilis said. "It's one of those things where I don't think I ever really thought I was going to be the MVP. Next thing you know, my name was in the running. You hear rumors here and there, but my agent and family were all pulling real hard for me. I had a feeling I'd be third or fourth. The great thing about it is Dustin [winning] and Justin Morneau is also a close friend of mine. It's really cool to have all three guys right there. It's an amazing thing.

"Dustin is very deserving. For one of your teammates to win it, it's a great thing. As a team, when a teammate wins, everyone has a role in it. That's the greatest thing. I'm going to be honest with you. I bet you if you ask Dustin, he'd rather have the World Series."

It was a proud day for the Red Sox, considering it was the first time the club had two players in the top three since 1986, when Roger Clemens finished first and Jim Rice was third.

"We're enormously proud of Dustin and Youk, and we're glad they were recognized by the voters today," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wrote in an e-mail. "Both players were signed by this organization, both learned in our farm system, and now both are models for how we want Red Sox players to approach the game."

Youkilis received two first-place votes, four second-place votes, four third-place votes, nine fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes. He finished with 201 points, compared to 317 for Pedroia and 257 for Morneau.

"It's a great thing," Youkilis said. "It's an awesome award for him to get. Very deserving. It's great just to have an MVP from the Boston Red Sox. I think, with the great team we've had over the years -- I know Manny [Ramirez] and David [Ortiz] were in the running a couple of times -- it's good just to have a teammate finally win the MVP."

2008 AL MVP Award Voting
Player, Club 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Dustin Pedroia, BOS 16 6 4 1             317
Justin Morneau, MIN 7 7 6 3 3 1 1       257
Kevin Youkilis, BOS 2 4 4 9 2 4 1 2     201
Joe Mauer, MIN 2 8 1 3 4 3 3 2 1   188
Carlos Quentin, CWS   1 4 8 4 4 4   1 1 160
Francisco Rodriguez, LAA 1 2 6 1 6   3 2   2 143
Josh Hamilton, TEX     2 2 3 7 3 2 4 3 112
Alex Rodriguez, NYY         1 1 4 1 4 7 45
Carlos Pena, TB     1   2   2 3 2 3 44
Grady Sizemore, CLE           2 1 5 6 1 42
Evan Longoria, TB           2 2 5 2 1 38
Cliff Lee, CLE       1 1 1 1   1   24
Miguel Cabrera, DET           1   1 4 1 17
Vladimir Guerrero, LAA             2 2 1   16
Jermaine Dye, CWS         1     2   2 14
Aubrey Huff, BAL           1     2 3 12
Milton Bradley, TEX           1 1       9
Jason Bartlett, TB         1           6
Mike Mussina, NYY               1     3
Raul Ibanez, SEA                   1 1
Ian Kinsler, TEX                   1 1
Ichiro Suzuki, SEA                   1 1
Mark Teixeira, LAA                   1 1

Though it was Pedroia who prevailed in the Baseball Writers' Association of America balloting, that should in no way diminish the season Youkilis had.

Much like Pedroia, the contributions of Youkilis were vital amid a season the Red Sox won 95 games, despite numerous injuries.

Not only did Youkilis have a breakthrough season at the plate, he also played stellar defense at first base and filled in admirably at third base during Mike Lowell's stints on the disabled list.

"Youk had an unbelievable season," said Pedroia. "He's as deserving as anybody. I get firsthand to see him every single day and how much he helps our team. He had an incredible year."

When the Red Sox made the difficult decision to trade Ramirez to the Dodgers on July 31, it was Youkilis who seamlessly moved into the cleanup spot.

Before Pedroia went on a white-hot stretch that started in late August and continued into September, Youkilis was the Boston player who was getting the most mention in MVP discussions.

Though Youkilis was a steady on-base presence for the Red Sox in his first two seasons as a starter, he turned into an elite run producer in 2008. Youkilis finished third in the AL in slugging (.569), fourth in extra-base hits (76) and RBIs (115), and sixth in on-base percentage (.390).

Youkilis established career highs in batting average (.312), hits (168), total bases (306), homers (29), RBIs and slugging percentage.

Perhaps Youkilis and Pedroia will represent the right side of the Boston infield for years to come.

"We've always had the heart and determination to become great players," said Youkilis. "If you asked Dustin, he probably would have told you that he expected to be where he is today. We always dreamed about playing the Major Leagues. It came full circle this year when we were playing alongside each other in the All-Star Game. That was unbelievable -- to be able to start next to each other in the All-Star Game -- and then all of the stuff going on now with the MVP race. It's an amazing thing. To do it with teammates is a great thing."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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