AL, NL boast strong Aaron Award field

AL, NL boast strong Aaron Award field

Major League Baseball instituted the Hank Aaron Award in 1999 to honor the top offensive player in both the American and National Leagues. It was a tribute to Aaron on the 25th anniversary of him hitting his 715th homer to pass Babe Ruth into first place on the all-time list, and was the first major baseball award to be introduced in 30 years.

Fans can vote for their favorite candidate on MLB.com. Final balloting for a winner this year will come from among the 30 nominees -- one from each big league team. It begins immediately and will end on Oct. 12. Winners are scheduled to be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 26.

Last year's recipients were Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Prince Fielder of the Brewers. Aaron, as he does every year, presented the award to Fielder in Denver at the World Series. Rodriguez didn't attend the media conference.

Rodriguez, who has 35 homers and 101 RBIs, is again among this year's AL nominees, although Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox lead the league with 36 homers each and are both on the list. Ryan Howard of the Phillies, who leads the Majors with 46 homers and 141 RBIs, heads the NL candidates and is attempting to win for the second time.

"The one thing I want to say about this award is that it goes further than just a ballplayer hitting and batting in runs," said Aaron, who finished with 755 homers, a total that was passed last year by former Giants slugger Barry Bonds. "You look at this award and you say, 'What does it exemplify?' It exemplifies the fact that each one of these players meant so much to his team, not only hitting the home runs or batting in the runs, but simply manufacturing wins for their respective teams."

As opposed to years past, this is the first time that fans get to pick the winners from all 30 nominees. Last year, the original list of 30 was culled to 10 -- five in each league -- before fans were asked to make their final vote.

Past recipients include A-Rod (four times), Bonds (three times), Manny Ramirez (twice), Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado. Howard won in 2006 along with Derek Jeter of the Yankees.

Here's the list of 2008 nominees:

In the AL, it's Cabrera, Quentin and Rodriguez; Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels; Kurt Suzuki of the Athletics; Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays; Grady Sizemore of the Indians; Raul Ibanez of the Mariners; Aubrey Huff of the Orioles; Josh Hamilton of the Rangers; Carlos Pena of the Rays; Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox; Mike Aviles of the Royals, and Justin Morneau of the Twins.

Aside from Howard in the NL, it's Lance Berkman of the Astros; Chipper Jones of the Braves; Ryan Braun of the Brewers; Pujols of the Cardinals; Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs; Conor Jackson of the Diamondbacks; Andre Ethier of the Dodgers; Bengie Molina of the Giants; Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins; Jose Reyes of the Mets; Lastings Milledge of the Nationals; Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres; Nate McLouth of the Pirates; Joey Votto of the Reds, and Matt Holliday of the Rockies.

Among the highlights compiled this year by the nominees, Morneau, who won the Home Run Derby during this year's All-Star Weekend at Yankee Stadium, leads the AL with 128 RBIs. Cabrera is second at 125. Hamilton, who also electrified the Derby crowd by hitting 28 first-round homers into the far reaches of the stadium, is third with 124.

Howard also leads baseball with 194 strikeouts. He's the only player at the moment north of the 40-homer mark. Braun and Gonzalez have 35 homers each. Pujols is having just another Prince Albert year with 34 homers and 106 RBIs, but he's also hitting .349. Jones, who flirted with .400 before the All-Star break, is leading the NL and the Majors at .362.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.