NEW YORK (AP) – Alex Rodriguez is headed back to the New York Yankees as the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

A-Rod won his third AL MVP award Monday, easily defeating Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez after compiling an astounding season at the plate. Rodriguez received 26 first-place votes and 382 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, while Ordonez had two firsts and 258 points.

Rodriguez started the year with 14 homers in his first 18 games, hit .314 for the season and led the majors with 54 homers, 156 RBIs and 143 runs. He was the first player since New York’s Roger Maris in 1961 to lead in the majors in homers, RBIs and runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Los Angeles Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero finished third in the voting with 203 points, and Boston’s David Ortiz (177) was fourth.

The only two first-place votes that didn’t go to Rodriguez were from Tom Gage of The Detroit News and Jim Hawkins of The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich.

Rodriguez didn’t want to talk about his negotiations with the Yankees that are leading toward a $275 million, 10-year contract.

“There is a finish line in sight,” Rodriguez said on a conference call, adding he would talk about the contract “when the time is right.”

He didn’t want to say why he decided last month to opt out of his contract.

“There will be a time and place for that,” he said.

He also wouldn’t detail the advice he was given by investor Warren Buffet.

“Warren and I have a wonderful relationship,” he said.

Rodriguez became the ninth player to win the MVP three or more times. Barry Bonds holds the record with seven – all in the NL – and Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and Mike Schmidt won three apiece.

A-Rod won his first MVP in 2003, his last season with the Texas Rangers. He also won the award while with the Yankees in 2005.

“I would trade off three for one world championship. I wouldn’t think twice about it,” said Rodriguez, who has never reached the World Series.

A-Rod struggled in the playoffs again this year as the Yankees lost to Cleveland in the first round. He went 4-for-15 (.267) with one RBI against the Indians, leaving him in an 8-for-59 (.136) postseason funk dating to 2004 and hitless in his past 18 playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.

He ended 2006 by being dropped to eighth in the batting order for the Yankees’ final postseason loss to Detroit.

A-Rod earned a $1.5 million bonus for winning the award, which completes the contract he opted out of last month. A-Rod earned $185.45 million over seven years in that deal, including bonuses, an average of $26.49 million annually.

After opting out of the final three seasons of that record contract, which had guaranteed him $252 million over 10 seasons, A-Rod restarted talks with the Yankees. That came after a turbulent two weeks in which the Yankees said they wouldn’t negotiate with him anymore, and then he approached the team without agent Scott Boras and negotiated his return through an investment banker.

It was the 20th time a Yankees player won the award.

AP-ES-11-19-07 1523EST

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