There was never any doubt among the Phillies that Jimmy Rollins would be named the National League's Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"He's not only my MVP," manager Charlie Manuel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's the MVP of the National League. Rollins is a guy that played every day. I've never seen so many hard-hit balls in my life. ... If you watched all those balls he caught that he turned into double plays, that right there creates a winning team."

In a season during which Rollins batted .296 with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, 94 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, 212 hits, and 139 runs scored, there was good cause to believe that he could win the award.

"This guy took us on his shoulders from day one," said left fielder Pat Burrell. "He's done things in this game that have never been done before."

Rollins was the first player in Major League history to record at least 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 home runs, and 25 stolen bases in a season. The 28-year-old from Oakland also started all 162 games of the regular season at one of the game's most demanding positions.

Holliday in same company as Yaz, Torre, Helton: In the closest vote for the NL Most Valuable Player Award since 1991, Matt Holliday fell just short of winning, earning 336 points to Jimmy Rollins' 353.

The Phillies shortstop received 16 of 32 first-place votes in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, while Holliday had 11 first-place votes. Prince Fielder of Milwaukee had five first-place votes and finished third.

"I was a little bit disappointed, but at the same time, I was happy for Jimmy," Holliday told the Rocky Mountain News. "That's a great award, and obviously I'm happy for him."

Holliday led the league in hitting with a .340 average and topped the league in RBIs (137), hits (216), doubles (50), total bases (386) and extra-base hits (92) as well. He became only the third player since Carl Yastrzemski, who won the American League Triple crown in 1967, to lead either the National League or American League in both batting average and RBI. The others were Joe Torre with St. Louis in 1971 and Todd Helton with the Rockies in 2000.

"You look at Matt Holliday's numbers and I looked at them myself and I'm just amazed," Rollins said on a national conference call. "I've said that. It's sick what he's done. The man hit .340, 36 home runs, 137 RBI, something like that. He produced. He was the reason why his team went as far as they did. He put the team on his back and he carried them all the way to the World Series. And that's what an MVP player does."

Rollins hit .296 this past season with 30 homers, 94 RBIs and led the league in runs scored (139), triples (20) and multi-hit games (63). He was second to Holliday in hits (212) and extra-base hits (92-88) and fifth in stolen bases (41). In the field, Rollins made only 11 errors and won a Gold Glove for the first time.

Ordonez gets high praise from Tigers: While Magglio Ordonez fell short of winning the American League MVP Award -- that honor went to Alex Rodriguez -- he did earn high praise from teammate Ivan Rodriguez.

"What Magglio did for us, what Alex did for the Yankees, it was amazing," Rodriguez told the Detroit Free Press. "They both deserved it."

With a .363 batting average, 28 home runs, 54 doubles and 139 RBIs, most agree that in any other year Ordonez would have more than likely brought home an MVP.

"In normal years," said Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, "those are MVP numbers."

Pudge Rodriguez, meanwhile, says the best may still be yet to come for Ordonez.

"That's why they signed him to that long-term contract," he said. "They know he can hit. That's the Magglio we're going to see for years. I'm just very happy for him. He's our MVP, after what he did. He was everything for us."

A-Rod joins Maris with MVP season: Alex Rodriguez earned his third American League Most Valuable Player Award, easily beating out Magglio Ordonez of Detroit for the honor. Rodriguez earned 382 points and 26 of 28 first-place votes while Ordonez had 258 points and the other two first-place votes.

Rodriguez had a season to remember at the plate for the Yankees in 2007. He batted .314 with 54 homers, 156 RBIs and 143 runs scored, becoming the first player to lead the Major Leagues in home runs, RBIs and runs since the Yankees' Roger Maris did so in 1961 (61 home runs, 142 RBIs and 132 runs). Rodriguez also led the Majors with a slugging percentage of .645 and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.067.

"For me, it was a magical season both on and off the field, coming together with my teammates in the clubhouse," Rodriguez, who also won with the Rangers in 2003 and the Yankees in 2005, told Newsday. "It was a type of year that I'll never forget."

General manager Brian Cashman said it was a no-brainer selection of Rodriguez as the MVP.

"Tremendous year, I mean well-deserved. The obvious choice. We don't make the playoffs without that type of performance. We obviously owe him for getting us there."

Rodriguez, a free agent, now wants to concentrate on winning a World Series title with the Yankees, though he has not officially signed a new contract with the team yet.

"I have tremendous faith that I will be a world champion," Rodriguez said, "and what better place to do that than in New York. So hopefully, everything works out for everyone."

Club president Randy Levine said the Yankees and Rodriguez are working on the "language" in the contract.

Blum to get a chance at second with Astros: While a member of the Astros in 2002 and 2003, Geoff Blum was a fan favorite in Houston. Now he's back after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Astros. The club has an option for a second year.

"We're happy to have Geoff back in an Astros uniform," general manager Ed Wade told Astros.com. "He is a very versatile player who can fill a lot of defensive roles and he swings a very good bat. While his versatility is a big plus, Geoff also has the ability to go out and play one position on a regular basis, giving us a lot of protection on the field. Plus, he's got great makeup and will bring energy to our club."

Blum hit .252 with five home runs and 33 RBIs for San Diego in 2007. He played in 122 games last season at five different positions -- second base (61 games), third base (13), shortstop (12), left field (9) and first base (1). Blum started 55 games at second base last year and has a chance to become the starter at second this spring with the Astros.

Blum, who hit a game-winning home run against Houston for the Chicago White Sox in the 14th inning of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, owns a .251 career average with 71 home runs and 344 RBIs in 1,022 games since 1999.

Mets add Brewers' catcher Estrada: The New York Mets ended their offseason search for a catcher by acquiring Johnny Estrada from the Milwaukee Brewers. The Mets sent reliever Guillermo Mota to Milwaukee.

"Johnny adds depth to our catching situation," Mets general manager Omar Minaya told Newsday. "He's a former All-Star who switch-hits and has hit over .300 three times in his career [counting 2003, when Estrada had only 36 at-bats and hit .306]."

Estrada hit 10 home runs and had a .403 slugging percentage in 120 games for the Brewers last season. Expected to split time with Ramon Castro next season, Estrada, a switch-hitter, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, and he also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. His elbow bothered him for much of the season.

Cardinals sign catcher LaRue: Longtime Cincinnati catcher Jason LaRue, who spent last season with the Kansas City Royals, has been signed by the St. Louis Cardinals to back up Yadier Molina. Like Molina, LaRue is among the best in baseball at nailing would-be base-stealers.

"In Jason, we've added a guy with a superior arm and significant experience in the National League," St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He's a good fit for us behind Yadi."

Mozeliak also talked with manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan before bringing LaRue on board.

"He's somebody both Tony and Dunc believe should make us better," said Mozeliak. "We also want to get him with (hitting coach) Hal (McRae) and get him back to where he's more comfortable at the plate."

Last season while with Kansas City, LaRue threw out 35 percent of runners who tried to steal on him.

Lidge likes Phillies' chances: Newly acquired Phillies pitcher Brad Lidge had some great years in Houston, but said last week that coming to Philadelphia has made him realize that his new team has the potential to do something very special.

"I'm thrilled to be here," Lidge told MLB.com. "I get more excited every day thinking about the prospects of what we can do here. I feel lucky to go from an up-and-down team to a winning team. Hopefully, I can have one of my best seasons next year."

Taking the place of a former closer that's on his way back into the rotation could have it's pitfalls, but Lidge says he's glad that everyone is taking it all in stride.

"Brett Myers did a fantastic job last year, and I'm real happy that he's on board with going back to the rotation," said Lidge. "Obviously, I hope to help the team go further than last year. I'm coming to an outstanding team."

All is good with Glavine back in Atlanta: After five years with the Mets, Tom Glavine returned as a free agent to the Braves. The veteran left-hander signed a one-year contract with Atlanta, the team he played for the first 16 years of his career.

"I'm not sitting here telling you I'm going to win 20 games -- but I'm not going to sit here and tell you I won't, either," Glavine told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I pitched a lot of good games last year, and still feel like I can do that. And looking at this [Braves] team, there's a lot to like."

Glavine went 13-8 for the Mets last year, but turned down a one-year option to return to New York. He took significantly less money to return to Atlanta.

"We're thrilled to have Tommy back -- as a manager, you have to understand what that means to the team," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who got 30 wins and 430 innings from aces John Smoltz and Tim Hudson last season, but no stability from the rest of the rotation. "It gives us so much depth in our rotation, to have an established guy like Tommy and the innings he can give us every outing."

Garland brings stability to Angels' staff: The Angels traded Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for starting pitcher Jon Garland. The Angels hope to pick up a power bat in the offseason and the addition of Garland may make trading one of their young pitchers easier.

"This gives us opportunities to strengthen our club in other areas," general manager Toney Reagins told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a positive step forward. It gives us flexibility to do some other things. ... We're looking at every opportunity available to make the club better."

Manager Mike Scioscia looks forward to having Garland on his staff.

"We're at a point where there is a lot of young leadership emerging on the club," Scioscia said. "Certainly, O.C. brought a direction, but the presence of Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson, Lackey, Mike Napoli, Mathis ... there's no leadership void.

"And a guy like Garland will lead by example. He's pitched in big games, and he will bring a piece of that to the clubhouse. O.C. was one of the most popular guys, a terrific player, but it's time for these younger players to get into their game. They're very talented."

Garland has recorded 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings in each of the last four seasons.

"He's proved he's going to take the ball, get 30-plus starts, pitch deep into games, and that constant is very important for us as we move forward," Scioscia said. "He threw the ball well last year."