It's not just the AL East title up for grabs when the Yankees go to Boston for three crucial games at Fenway Park. The league's most valuable player award might go to the star whose team wins the division.

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez both have the eye-popping numbers that will put them near the top of most MVP ballots. But when it comes time for baseball writers to decide who is the most valuable, they often pick players who helped their teams reach the postseason.

"That's how you win an MVP -- getting into the playoffs and winning the World Series," Ortiz said this week. "All I want to do is get into the playoffs, one way or another."

"I think the focus is on the team. I think a nice side note behind that is, obviously, the MVP race," Rodriguez said. "No question, front and center right now is the Yankees vs. Boston."

The MVP ballot does not require a player to reach the playoffs, but voters frequently say that a guy can't be that valuable if his team doesn't at least contend. Andre Dawson, starring for the Cubs in 1987, was the only player to win an MVP with a last-place team until Rodriguez with the Rangers two years ago.

Of course, the ballot doesn't require a player to play the field, either.

But no one has ever won the award playing designated hitter full-time; Don Baylor won it with the Angels in 1979 playing 65 games at DH and 97 more in the field. On the other hand, a number of sluggers who were considered defensive liabilities have won the AL award, including two-time winners Frank Thomas and Juan Gonzalez.

* ROYAL SIGNING: 3B Alex Gordon, the No. 2 pick in June's amateur draft, agreed to a minor league contract with the Royals that includes a $4 million signing bonus.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gordon is the highest first-round selection in club history. He was due to report to Arizona to begin play in the Instructional League.

A two-time Big 12 player of the year at Nebraska, he hit .353 with 44 homers and 189 RBI in his three-year career. As a junior, he batted .372 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI, earning the Golden Spikes Award as the U.S. Baseball Federation's top amateur player and sweeping the collegiate player of the year awards.

-- From News Services

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz: "That's how you win an MVP -- getting into the playoffs and winning the World Series."