MIAMI -- Of players not named Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez is at the head of the class.
Unfortunately for the Marlins' All-Star shortstop, Pujols was on the list of contenders.
With that being the case, all the first-place drama of the National League Most Valuable Player Award vote was gone well before the decision was made public.
By a unanimous decision, the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday selected Pujols as the NL MVP. In claiming his third top prize, the Cardinals slugger also received all 32 first-place votes.
For Ramirez, the vote was still rewarding. The 25-year-old finished second, followed by the Phillies' Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder of the Brewers.
Ramirez's placement is the highest by a Florida player.
Only twice in their history have the Marlins had a player finish in the top five in the NL MVP voting. Miguel Cabrera placed fifth in 2005 and '06.
Ramirez has experienced a top 10 placement. In 2007, he ended up 10th.
Had he won the MVP, Ramirez would also have had a profitable day. As part of the six-year, $70 million contract he signed in 2008, the Marlins' sensation has a $500,000 bonus for being named the MVP. There is no bonus money, however, for second place.
With 32 first-place votes, Pujols racked up 448 points. Ramirez received 15 second-place votes, five third place and he had 233 points to outdistance Howard, who collected 217 points.
Fielder ended up with 203 points, and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies rounded out the top five with 172 points.
In terms of his value to the Marlins, Ramirez is the club's clear-cut Most Valuable Player. There is little dispute from within the organization or those who follow the team.
For three consecutive seasons, the South Florida chapter of the BBWAA has recognized Ramirez as the Marlins' MVP in its annual voting.
"Hanley is certainly deserving of being among the top vote-getters this year," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said on Tuesday. "He is one of the premier young talents in the game and should be an MVP candidate for years to come."
In the eyes of many, it's just a matter of time before Ramirez takes home the MVP. In terms of pure talent, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound shortstop from the Dominican Republic already ranks among the best in the game.
Blessed with the rare combination of speed and power, Ramirez has raked in a number of impressive honors in four full big league seasons.
Showcasing his versatility, Ramirez won the NL batting title this year, becoming the first Marlins player to do so. He's also received the NL Silver Slugger Award for shortstops. In 2006, he was voted as the NL Rookie of the Year.
Primarily a leadoff hitter his first three seasons, Ramirez switched to third in the lineup in 2009 to emphasize his power. He batted a franchise-best .342.
For the second consecutive year, Ramirez captured the Silver Slugger Award, as he finished with 106 RBIs and a .543 slugging percentage.
"I'm thankful to God and to my family for their support," Ramirez said after receiving the Silver Slugger in early November. "The Marlins organization and my great teammates, [I thank] for their help in my getting this award. It's all a result of hard work and dedication, and I always strive to get better and to do what I can to help my team succeed."
The face of the franchise, Ramirez helped lead the Marlins to a second-place finish in the NL East and an 87-75 record. The wins total was the third-most in team history.
Ramirez is the first NL shortstop to win the batting title since Dick Groat of the Pirates in 1960.
How rare is it for an NL shortstop to claim the title? Consider that Ramirez is just the fourth one to do it. He also joins Arky Vaughan (1935) and Honus Wagner, a seven-time batting champ. Wagner, one of the early greats in baseball history, last won a batting title in 1911.
Being in elite company is nothing new for Ramirez, the only Marlins player voted in as the NL's starting All-Star shortstop twice.
His overall numbers are staggering. Along with his .342 batting average, he had a .410 on-base percentage, while scoring 101 runs and adding 197 hits, including 42 doubles. And he stole 27 bases.
Entering 2009, Ramirez had never hit a grand slam in the big leagues. He ended that drought by collecting three this past year.
Defensively, he also made tremendous strides, committing just 10 errors after posting 22 in 2008. Ramirez had a string of 56 consecutive games without an error -- from July 4-Sept. 12. His previous best streak was 28 games in 2008.
"Nothing surprises me about this guy," manager Fredi Gonzalez said late in the season. "With this guy, the sky is the limit. I think we're just reaching the tip of the iceberg on him. Everybody talks about his offense, but how about his defense? His numbers have improved tremendously."
In all, 30 players received at least one NL MVP vote Tuesday. Among them was Chris Coghlan, who had one 10th-place vote, good for one point. Last week, Coghlan became the third Marlin to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.