A-Rod in running for AL Aaron Award

Aaron Award voting in final hours

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez had his three-year stranglehold on the Hank Aaron Award broken last season, when Boston's Manny Ramirez took home the hardware.

This season, Rodriguez has looked like the A-Rod of old, finally feeling comfortable in New York and hitting the ball with authority on a regular basis. As a result, he is one of the six finalists in the American League for this year's Hank Aaron Award presented by CENTURY 21.

The Hank Aaron Award was created in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record and was decided on a players' combined number of hits, home runs, and RBIs.

From 2000-02, winners of the award were chosen by a vote of Major League Baseball club broadcasters. In 2003, the award was decided by broadcaster vote and, for the first time, an online fan vote, which was weighed in a 70-30 split. This is the second consecutive year that the award will be decided by Major League Baseball fans via the online ballot.

Rodriguez's competition includes Baltimore's Miguel Tejada, Boston's David Ortiz, Chicago's Paul Konerko, Los Angeles' Vladimir Guerrero and Texas' Mark Teixeira.

"I've been very fortunate throughout my whole career to be mentioned with names like that," Rodriguez said. "Consistency, to me, is what I value the most in this game."

Rodriguez has been consistently good throughout the season, ranking first in the AL in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He also ranks in the top three in batting average, walks and runs scored and fourth in RBIs.

A-Rod has hit at least .300 in every month other than July, topping .324 in May, June and August. He also hit eight or more home runs in four of the first five months, becoming just the second Yankees' right-handed hitter ever to hit 40 in a season. The other? Joe DiMaggio, who hit 46 in 1937.

"It was a little surprising to me that I was just the second player to do that, considering the rich tradition of this franchise," Rodriguez said. "It puts something like that in perspective."

Hitting in Yankee Stadium is clearly not a problem for the former AL MVP, who had a .364 average, 23 homers and 61 RBIs at home through the team's first 68 home games.

"I've always looked at Yankee Stadium as a great opportunity for me," Rodriguez said. "Hitting the ball to right-center is conducive to my swing and my approach. Being a dead-pull hitter in Yankee Stadium can only hurt you."

Rodriguez has already surpassed his numbers from 2004, when he hit .286 with 36 homers and 106 RBIs.

"If you look at my career like a graph, the one blip was hopefully last year," he said. "I'm back to what I always did now. It was such a big adjustment for me overall, but things feel comfortable now."

When asked about the reasons for the improvement from his first season in New York, or any type of analysis of his current year, Rodriguez chooses to take a pass on answering.

"It's not over yet," he said. "I don't know if it's a superstition, but it's tough to evaluate my season when the most important month is ahead of me. So far, I've been very consistent."

From Sept. 6-30, fans will be able to vote from among the six finalists in each league to determine the American League and National League recipients of the 2005 Hank Aaron Award presented by CENTURY 21. Voting will take place exclusively at MLB.com.

The finalists were chosen from among 30 nominees, one from each Major League Baseball club, by a special panel assembled by Major League Baseball and CENTURY 21. During August, fans voted for one of three players from each team via the club's official Web site, and the leading vote-getter from each team became one of the 30 club nominees.

The winners of the 2005 Hank Aaron Award, presented by CENTURY 21, will be announced during a press conference before Game 4 of the 2005 World Series.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.