Braun third in NL MVP balloting

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun did not win the National League's Most Valuable Player Award on Monday, but if he stays on the same career path, he will someday.

Coming off his first full season in the big leagues, Braun placed third with 139 points in the Baseball Writers' Association of America's balloting system and was one of three Brewers to place. Left-hander CC Sabathia was sixth with 121 votes despite playing only half of the season in the NL, and first baseman Prince Fielder, last year's third-place finisher, was 20th with 11 votes.

The winner was Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, who won his second career NL MVP award and beat second-place finisher Ryan Howard of the Phillies by 61 votes. Pujols had 18 first-place votes and 369 total votes to Howard's 12 and 308.

Thirty-two BBWAA members cast ballots ranking players from first to 10th for the award, and Braun appeared on 25 ballots. He received two second-place votes and ranked as low as 10th on one ballot and received one more point than Dodgers' midseason acquisition Manny Ramirez, who totaled 138 points.

The balloting system rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one point for 10th place.

The Brewers had not placed multiple top-10 vote-getters since 1982, when Robin Yount won the American League MVP Award, Cecil Cooper placed fifth and Gorman Thomas was eighth. The AL champion Brewers actually had six top-20 finishers that year, with Paul Molitor running 12th, Rollie Fingers 16th and Pete Vukovich 18th.

Braun, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, batted .285 with 37 home runs and 106 RBIs this past season. He led the league with 83 extra-base hits despite playing much of the final two months of the regular season with a lower back injury that limited his range of motion and affected his swing. He also won a Silver Slugger Award last week.

Sabathia might have won MVP honors with more time in the NL. Acquired from the Cleveland Indians on July 7, Sabathia was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in his 17 Brewers starts, including a league-best seven complete games. He actually received more second- or third-place votes (nine) than Braun (five) but appeared on only 20 ballots

Fielder hit .276 with 34 homers and 102 RBIs and was Milwaukee's hottest hitter in September, when he batted 316 with six home runs and 21 RBIs to help the Brewers clinch the NL Wild Card. Fielder appeared on four ballots, as high as sixth.