NEW YORK -- Albert Pujols started his career with four startling seasons, equal or better than those of many Hall of Famers. Only Barry Bonds always did better _ until this year.
Pujols won his first National League MVP award Tuesday, beating Andruw Jones in a close vote that didn't include Bonds, who missed most of the season because of a knee injury.
"A lot of the fans and even the players, they missed Barry," Pujols said of the seven-time MVP, who had won the previous four seasons. "I wished he would have been healthy and played."
Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman, received 18 first-place votes and 14 seconds for 378 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Jones, the Atlanta Braves' center fielder, got 13 firsts, 17 seconds and two thirds for 351 points.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee got the other first-place vote and was third with 263 points.
"It's awesome when you hear people compare yourself with Barry," Pujols said.
Pujols hit .330 with 41 homers and 117 RBIs. His average was second, five points behind Lee, and he trailed only Jones (51) and Lee (46) in homers. He tied for second in RBIs with 117, 11 behind Jones.
Jones led the major leagues in home runs, batted .263 and won his eighth straight Gold Glove.
"I think he deserved it. The voting was the right vote. He was the right choice," Jones said. "He had the most solid season average wise, home-run wise and RBI wise."
Pujols played in 161 of 162 regular-season games despite being bothered nearly the entire season by plantar fasciitis, a heel injury that he also felt in 2004.
"There were some times when I got out of bed, I had to sit up before I jumped out of bed because it was bothering me so bad," he said.
The 25-year-old Pujols has put up remarkable statistics in his first five major league seasons, averaging 40 homers and 124 RBIs to go with a .332 average.