NEW YORK -- Miguel Tejada beat all those more famous American League shortstops to the Most Valuable Player award.
After leading Oakland to the AL West title, Tejada easily defeated Alex Rodriguez on Tuesday, earning the AL honor when he received 21 of 28 first-place votes and 356 points from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
''I don't think there can be anyone on earth more happy than I am right now,'' Tejada said from the presidential palace in the Dominican Republic, where about 1,000 people attended a reception in his honor. ''Inside, I feel fulfilled.''
His car to the palace was repeatedly stopped by the large crowd, and many of his relatives joined him at the palace.
''I don't know if I can count all the members of my family, because there's lots of people here,'' he said.
In balloting that rewarded winning over statistics, A-Rod was second with five first-place votes and 254 points. He led the major leagues in home runs and RBIs but played for last-place Texas.
Among the other two star AL shortstops, Boston's Nomar Garciaparra was tied for 11th with 24 points and New York's Derek Jeter wasn't among the top 10 on any ballot.
''It makes me real proud to be in the same group,'' Tejada said.
New York Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano got the remaining two first-place votes and was third with 234 points, followed by Anaheim outfielder Garret Anderson (184) and Yankees slugger Jason Giambi (162).
Tejada thought a player who makes the playoffs should get preference in the voting, but also said he would have voted for Rodriguez.
''He had a monster year. I've been thinking the whole way that he's going to win the MVP,'' Tejada said. ''I got a surprise today when they made the announcement.''
While Tejada hit a career-high .308 with 34 homers and 131 RBIs, Rodriguez batted .300 with 57 homers and 142 RBIs.
''I know one of these years he's going to win three, four MVPs in a row,'' Tejada said.
While Rodriguez, Garciaparra and Jeter have received the attention in recent years, Tejada now has something they don't.
''At no other time in history has the major leagues been blessed with so many Hall of Fame caliber shortstops, and for this year and today, Miguel stands taller than the rest,'' Oakland co-owner Steve Schott said.
Tejada helped the A's win 103 games, matching the Yankees for the most in the major leagues.
Rodriguez, who got married on Nov. 2, was on his honeymoon and unavailable for comment, played for a team that went 72-90, finishing 31 games behind Oakland.
''The person who helps you win the most games should be the MVP,'' said Ken Macha, promoted from Oakland's bench coach to manager. ''The idea is to win games, not just put numbers up. Miguel put numbers up every day for a contending team. Not only that, but he got a ton of huge hits for us. He was most deserving of the award.''
Oakland enters 2003 with the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner (Barry Zito).
''That is really cool for the A's,'' Macha said.
The last team with both the MVP and Cy Young winners was the 1993 Chicago White Sox, with Frank Thomas and Jack McDowell.
The Bay area swept the MVPs for the second time in three years, with San Francisco's Barry Bonds winning the NL award for a record fifth time Monday. Two years ago, the Giants' Jeff Kent and the Athletics' Giambi were the MVPs.
Giambi left the A's after the 2001 season to sign with the Yankees, and Tejada is eligible to become a free agent after the 2003 season. He will make $5 million in the final season of an $11.3 million, four-year contract.
''I think they're going to do something to keep me in Oakland,'' Tejada said.
The 26-year-old admitted he was nervous in the days leading to the vote announcement.
''I didn't eat from two days ago,'' he said. ''My stomach is closed.''
The only time a player on a last-place team won the award was 1987, when Andre Dawson of the Cubs led the NL in homers and RBIs after giving Chicago a signed contract during the collusion era and letting the Cubs fill in the salary -- $500,000.
Rodriguez, who finished second to Juan Gonzalez in the 1996 voting, impressed all season long, but Tejada made a big impression during Oakland's 20-game winning streak, the longest in the major leagues in 67 years.
Tejada hit a three-run, ninth-inning homer for the A's 18th straight victory, then had a winning bases-loaded single the next night.
''I never thought I would be the player I am right now,'' Tejada said.
Tejada is the third Dominican to win an MVP award, following Toronto's George Bell in 1987 and the Cubs' Sammy Sosa in 1998. Tejada gets a $100,000 bonus for winning added to his $3.5 million salary, and Rodriguez gets $200,000 added to his $21 million salary, part of his record $252 million, 10-year contract. Anderson gets a $50,000 bonus.
A's players have won 11 MVPs, second in the AL to the Yankees, who have 18.
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