Going into the Orioles' spring home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 31-year-old was coming off one of his least productive seasons in six years, when his home run total dipped under 20 for the first time since 2001. Not only that, Huff was shelved for most of the offseason because of a sports hernia and, going into March, he hadn't swung a bat all winter.
Fast forward six months, and Huff was a totally different player.
On Tuesday, he received recognition for that when he finished 16th in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award -- won by Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Huff received one sixth-place vote, two ninth-place votes and three 10th-place votes to get his name on the ballot for the first time since 2003, when he finished 24th.
While 16th place in MVP voting isn't a surefire ticket to the Hall of Fame, it is another notch in a season that has already seen Huff win his first Silver Slugger Award, get nominated for the Hank Aaron Award and Comeback Player of the Year Award, and get voted into the year-end American League All-Star team by The Sporting News.
"I always have confidence in my ability," Huff said prior to the Orioles' season finale. "I go into Spring Training every year wanting to hit around .300, 30 [homers] and 100 [RBIs]. That's normally the goal I shoot for."
That goal was accomplished when Huff finished with a .304 batting average, 32 home runs and 108 RBIs while serving mostly as the cleanup hitter for the Orioles.
Huff finished 2008 playing in 154 games and was among the league's top 10 in hits, home runs, RBIs, doubles and extra-base hits. More importantly, the left-handed hitter's numbers increased in pretty much every category when compared to '07. Huff's batting average went up 24 points, his home runs increased by 17 and his RBI total was higher by 36.
|2008 AL MVP Award Voting|
|Dustin Pedroia, BOS||16||6||4||1||317|
|Justin Morneau, MIN||7||7||6||3||3||1||1||257|
|Kevin Youkilis, BOS||2||4||4||9||2||4||1||2||201|
|Joe Mauer, MIN||2||8||1||3||4||3||3||2||1||188|
|Carlos Quentin, CWS||1||4||8||4||4||4||1||1||160|
|Francisco Rodriguez, LAA||1||2||6||1||6||3||2||2||143|
|Josh Hamilton, TEX||2||2||3||7||3||2||4||3||112|
|Alex Rodriguez, NYY||1||1||4||1||4||7||45|
|Carlos Pena, TB||1||2||2||3||2||3||44|
|Grady Sizemore, CLE||2||1||5||6||1||42|
|Evan Longoria, TB||2||2||5||2||1||38|
|Cliff Lee, CLE||1||1||1||1||1||24|
|Miguel Cabrera, DET||1||1||4||1||17|
|Vladimir Guerrero, LAA||2||2||1||16|
|Jermaine Dye, CWS||1||2||2||14|
|Aubrey Huff, BAL||1||2||3||12|
|Milton Bradley, TEX||1||1||9|
|Jason Bartlett, TB||1||6|
|Mike Mussina, NYY||1||3|
|Raul Ibanez, SEA||1||1|
|Ian Kinsler, TEX||1||1|
|Ichiro Suzuki, SEA||1||1|
|Mark Teixeira, LAA||1||1|
Part of the reason for Huff's resurgence was physical, as hitting coach Terry Crowley convinced him to stand more upright to get on top of the ball and drive it better to all fields. The other part, however, was mental, as he regained his confidence despite a sluggish 2007 and put any apprehensions of January sports hernia surgery behind him.
He also had to brush off being showered by a chorus of boos at Camden Yards on Opening Day for controversial remarks he made about the city of Baltimore on a radio show during the offseason.
"I was fortunate enough to get those numbers this year, and it makes it a little bit sweeter, [knowing] what I did go through in the offseason with the fans and everything," Huff added before the season finale. "Hopefully all is forgotten and we can go into next year and try to do it all over again.
"If you hit, everybody forgets. That seemed to be the case this year."
Pedroia received 16 of 28 first-place votes to give him 317 total points. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau finished second with seven first-place votes and 257 total points, while Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis got two first-place votes and 201 total points to finish third. Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez also received first-place votes.
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.