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Ramirez, Darvish named MVPs / Giants slugger wins 2nd straight award, among 5 from Japan Series cham

by Jim Allen (Nov 19, 2009)

Alex Ramirez won his first batting title this season, matched the legendary Sadaharu Oh by driving in 100 runs in seven straight seasons and won his second Japan Series ring.

On Wednesday, the Yomiuri Giants cleanup hitter's sweet season got some extra icing when he won his second straight Central League Most Valuable Player Award.

The award gave Ramirez another link with baseball's all-time home run king, who was the last player to win the CL's top award in consecutive seasons.

"Oh-san is one of the greatest players to play the game of baseball," Ramirez said. "Everybody in the world knows about him. I really respect him for what he did as a player and for what he's doing now.

"By winning back-to-back MVPs, and having the seven straight 100-RBI seasons, I'm in two of the same categories with him and I'm really happy to be there."

Ramirez batted .322 and his .544 slugging percentage was second in the league behind teammate and catcher Shinnosuke Abe--the only player to receive more votes in the CL's Best IX ballot.

Ramirez and Abe were among five Giants selected to the Best IX team.

The Pacific League's MVP went to right-hander Yu Darvish of the PL champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. It was his second award, as well, having won in 2007.

Darvish, whose season was hit by injuries, seemed as remorseful as he was honored.

"I was surprised because I wasn't able to do anything at the end [of the season]," the 23-year-old said. "I'm happy people recognized what I did, although I have my doubts considering the way I finished. I think it's kind of unfair to my teammates, who carried the load [at the end]."

He became the third PL player to win twice in his first five seasons after Nishitetsu Lions legend Kazuhisa Inao and Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who won three straight times in the 1990s for the Orix BlueWave.

"As far as Inao and Ichiro go, I'm not in the same class as they were, but I'm still honored to have something in common with them," Darvish said.

"I had a lot of injuries, learned a lot in the World Baseball Classic under manager [Tatsunori] Hara and from my Nippon Ham teammates."

Darvish, who went 15-5 with a league-leading 1.73 ERA, was also named the PL's best pitcher for the second time.

"I wish I could apologize to Sawamura Award winner [Hideaki] Wakui, for winning that one."

Rookie of the year honors went to Giants center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto in the CL and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks middle reliever Tadashi Settsu.

Matsumoto, in his third year became the second straight Giant to win the award. Lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi last year became the first winner to start his career on a developmental contract. Matsumoto became the second.

"My parents were really happy and that was very gratifying," said Matsumoto, who acknowledged the impact of Yamaguchi's award. "He started on the developmental roster the same as I did. It made it feel possible.

"I thought about the aspects of my game that could have the biggest impact. I worked on them and I believed in myself."

Matsumoto, in his third pro season, played in 129 games, batting .293 after being injured last season.

"In my first year, I was so far from the level someone would need to get this award," Matsumoto said. "Then I got hurt, the only thing was to work at it and the results followed."

Settsu, who played corporate league ball after finishing university, has said he considered remaining an amateur this year.

"When they drafted me [fifth] I thought maybe I would pitch another year in corporate league ball," he said. "And at first I thought maybe it was a mistake on my part to turn pro. But in the preseason, I found my feet and began to feel like I belonged."

Settsu's 70 games and 34 holds were both tops in the PL.

On the Best IX team, the three other Giants were pitcher Dicky Gonzalez, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and third baseman Michihiro Ogasawara. Ogasawara, who was the PL MVP with the Fighters in 2006 and CL MVP for the Giants in 2007, won his fifth career Best IX selection.

Chunichi Dragons first baseman Tony Blanco, who led the league in homers and RBIs, was named to the squad, as was second baseman Akihiro Higashide of the Hiroshima Carp. Yokohama BayStars left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa earned his first selection, while Tokyo Yakult Swallows center fielder Norichika Aoki was named to the squad for the fifth time.

In the PL, Darvish was joined by four Fighters teammates: first baseman Shinji Takahashi, second baseman Kensuke Tanaka, center fielder Yoshio Itoi and right fielder Atsunori Inaba.

Two Saitama Seibu Lions made the grade: third baseman Takeya Nakamura and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. They were joined by a pair of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, center fielder Teppei Tsuchiya and designated hitter Takeshi Yamasaki.

Hidenori Tanoue became the sixth Hawks catcher to win the award and gave the team 30 awards at the position, more than any other team in the PL.

All of the Best IX choices were runaway winners.


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