Postseason award season has begun, and if respect from peers is considered the best tribute for a player, then Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Johan Santana already have earned top honors.
Those three Twins players were selected as Sporting News American League All-Stars by their fellow players, with Santana earning Pitcher of the Year honors, while Mauer and Morneau were selected as the AL's top catcher and first baseman. The awards were selected by a vote of 220 players, though they were not permitted to vote for players on their own team.
Mauer was the leading vote-getter among AL players, and it's no surprise after his breakout season in which he became the first American League catcher to earn a batting title. Mauer, 23, hit .347 with 84 RBIs, 13 home runs and a team-high .429 on base percentage.
The other prominent member of the Twins' "M&M boys" also had his own coming-out party this year. Morneau put himself square in the race for AL Most Valuable Player award as he helped carry the Twins' offensive turnaround by hitting .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBIs.
And while it was Mauer and Morneau catching the attention of the league for the first time, Santana surprised no one with another spectacular season. A favorite to earn his second Cy Young in the past three seasons, Santana captured the Major League's Triple Crown for pitching with his 19 wins, 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts.
Also chosen as AL All-Stars were second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Derek Jeter of the Yankees, third baseman Joe Crede and outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, outfielder Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays and outfielder Manny Ramirez and designated hitter David Ortiz of the Red Sox.
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander was named the AL's top rookie, Jim Thome of the White Sox earned Comeback Player of the Year honors, and Detroit's Jim Leyland was selected as the AL's Manager of the Year.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.