Albert Pujols has won the National League Most Valuable Player Award… for the second time in his illustrious career. From StL Today:

Increasingly perceived as a transcendent player, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols overcame his team’s fourth-place finish and a Bunyanesque second half by Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to earn election as the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player.

Pujols, who also won the award in 2005, becomes the first Dominican-born player to earn multiple MVP titles.

Pujols, 28, amassed 37 home runs and 116 RBI in a season hampered by a strained calf that forced him to the disabled list and a nerve condition that caused him to undergo surgery last month.

Universally perceived as an overachieving team in transition, the Cardinals stayed in contention for more than five months while drafting behind El Hombre’s daunting consistency.

Pujols had finished second three times in balloting during his eight-year career — twice to Barry Bonds and once to Howard in 2006. Just as Pujols won this time without reaching the postseason, Howard won previously by keeping the Phillies in contention. Though denied a second Gold Glove Award earlier this month, Pujols is recognized as one of the best defenders at his position in the game. He also led the NL in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.114) and reached 100 walks for the first time in his career.

Howard mashed 48 home runs with 146 RBI but was doubtless hurt by a .251 batting average and 199 strikeouts. No NL MVP has ever hit below .267.

Pujols’ margin of victory was more decisive than expected, perhaps suggesting a growing appreciation for a player long consigned to Bonds’ shadow and perhaps penalized for never leading his league in home runs or RBI. Still, Pujols has hit .334 and averaged 40 home runs and 122 RBI during his career.