It's a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it's a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit.
Hank Aaron, in his autobiography, "I Had A Hammer"
His 755 home runs may not be the most in Major League Baseball today, but few people around the game are more revered than the great Henry Louis Aaron. When he speaks, people listen. That includes a popular annual pregame ceremony during each World Series, where he sits next to a couple of superstar hitters and talks about the award they receive in his name.
Now it is time to help Hammerin' Hank choose those most outstanding offensive performers in each league. Voting is under way, exclusively at MLB.com through Sunday, to help decide the 13th annual Hank Aaron Award, to be presented at the Fall Classic. Last year's recipients were Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Joey Votto of the Reds, both of whom are finalists again.
American League finalists include: J.J Hardy of the Orioles, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox, Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, Alex Gordon of the Royals, Mark Trumbo of the Angels, Michael Cuddyer of the Twins, Curtis Granderson of the Yankees, Josh Willingham of the A's, Dustin Ackley of the Mariners, Evan Longoria of the Rays, Michael Young of the Rangers and Bautista.
National League choices are: Justin Upton of the D-backs, Brian McCann of the Braves, Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, Mike Stanton of the Marlins, Carlos Lee of the Astros, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Jose Reyes of the Mets, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Cameron Maybin of the Padres, Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, Michael Morse of the Nationals and Votto.
For the second year in a row, fans will join a special panel of Hall of Fame players, led by Aaron himself, in balloting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each league since it was established in 1999. Aaron always likes to say that in addition to the offensive clout, another criteria in the balloting is how the player handles himself on and off the field.
The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, and, at that time, was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.
"Each year, Major League Baseball pays tribute to Hank Aaron, one of our game's greatest players, by honoring the top offensive performer in each league with an award in his name," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "I would like to congratulate all of the club nominees for their outstanding seasons and express my sincerest gratitude to the Hall of Famers who will join Hank and the fans in selecting this year's winners."
Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan were personally selected by Aaron to join the Hall of Fame panel this year. They join a group from last year that included Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 23,536 hits, 11,445 RBIs and exactly 2,800 home runs -- have all agreed to join Aaron in lending their expertise to select the best offensive performers in each league.
"It is a real privilege to have my name on the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league," Aaron said. "With so many talented players in the game today, I am thankful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to select the winners."
Ackley and Trumbo, both from the AL West, are hoping to become the first rookies to win the award. Ackley made his debut on June 17 and went on to compile 91 hits and 40 walks in 90 games. Trumbo finished the season with 29 homers and 87 RBIs, emerging as a top Rookie of the Year candidate.
Pujols could join Alex Rodriguez as the only three-time winners of the award.
Past winners include: Bautista and Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Howard (2006); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).