NEW YORK (AP) -- Colorado's Todd Helton, who led the major leagues in batting after hitting .400 as late as Aug. 21, was voted The Associated Press Major League Player of the Year on Thursday.
The 27-year-old first baseman received 21 of 106 votes in nationwide balloting by writers and broadcasters.
Oakland first baseman Jason Giambi was second with 15 votes, followed by San Francisco outfielder Barry Bonds, Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez and Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez, all tied for third with 12 votes.
"Trust me, I'd much rather be in the Yankees' shoes," Helton said Wednesday when informed of his victory.
Helton wound up hitting .372, winning his first National League batting title, and led the major leagues with 147 RBIs. He had 42 homers, led the majors in slugging percentage (.698) and total bases (405), and topped the NL in on-base percentage (.463), hits (216) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.392).
His 62 doubles were the most in the major leagues since 1936, when Joe Medwick had 64 and Charlie Gehringer 62.
In just his third full season in major leagues, Helton hit .391 at Coors Field in Denver and batted .353 on the road, up from .252 last year.
"It's hard to be a road hitter when you hit at Coors Field," Helton said. "When you see all these green spaces to get base hits, you have a great attitude getting in the box. That's half the battle. On the road, you don't see that.
"One of my goals coming into the season was to hit better on the road. It's all mental. The last couple of months, I enjoyed hitting on the road better. People were telling me I was the only person who couldn't hit at Coors Field."
Despite Helton's big season, Colorado went 82-80, finishing fourth in the NL West, 15 games behind division-leading San Francisco.
"When you're losing, stats really don't matter," Helton said. "You go out there to win. The really good teams, they go through bad periods, too, but they know how to come out of them and minimize that. A couple bad stretches, we weren't able to get out of, and basically that was the season there."
Helton raised his career average to .334, second among active players behind Tony Gwynn (.338). Helton hit .512 in May (42 for 82) with 11 homers and 26 RBIs, and .476 in August (50 for 105) with seven homers and 32 RBIs. He has a .395 career average in August.
He's about to head to the Caribbean on his honeymoon, and already has started offseason workouts in preparation for spring training. He switched his weight training program after the 1999 season, when he hit .320.
"The last two seasons, I started real slow, just because I lifted a lot of weights," he said. "It got my upper body so tight, my swing was tight. I went to an Olympic-type lifting program. It makes you more flexible,"
Martinez won the award last year and Rodriguez won in 1996. Bonds won in both 1992 and 1993.
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