Henderson shows that setup men can clear the voting bases, too

November 21, 1990|By Mike Weaver | Mike Weaver,Knight-Ridder

There is more to baseball than home runs, and A's outfielder Rickey Henderson has the American League's Most Valuable Player award to prove it.

Henderson won the award yesterday. And he received it ahead of Cecil Fielder, who hit 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers.

Fielder was the first player to hit 50 or more homers in a season since George Foster hit 52 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977, but Henderson was recognized for his overall contributions in helping the A's to a third consecutive AL championship.

"People sometimes forget about the little guys who set things up for those home run hitters," said Henderson, who finished among the league's top 10 in nine key offensive categories. "But maybe times are changing."

Henderson received 14 of a possible 28 first-place votes and 317 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Fielder received 10 first-place votes and finished second with 286 points.

"I'd like to tip my hat to Cecil Fielder," Henderson said. "I think he had an outstanding year, and he deserved to win this award as much as I did."

Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens received three first-place votes and was third in the final count. The other first-place vote went to A's reliever Dennis Eckersley, who placed sixth in the balloting.

"This ranks right up there with anything you can do in baseball," Henderson said. "This has been a longtime dream for me, and I'm very proud of this award. It has taken me a while to win it."

Henderson came up short in the MVP voting after stellar seasons in 1981 and 1985, but his 1990 numbers were too good to be overlooked. He led the American League in runs (119), stolen bases (65) and on-base percentage (.439). His .325 batting average was a career best and ranked second in the league to George Brett's .329, and Henderson was seventh in the league in homers with 28.

"I think this is consistent with the quality of play we've seen from Rickey over the years," A's general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He combines power, speed and defense. He is the essence of the modern player."

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