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Attributes abound for Cubs' talented trio

Attributes abound for Cubs' talented trio

SAN DIEGO -- Derrek Lee is consistent, Aramis Ramirez has been clutch and Alfonso Soriano can provide a spark. The trio are the Cubs' nominees for the Hank Aaron Award.

The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having three nominees. This is the seventh consecutive year that fans have had a voice in selecting the award winners.

Fans can vote through Sept. 15 to determine the club nominee, and then voting will be held Sept. 16-30 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series.

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Last year's winners were Ramirez and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Lee has been the most reliable. The first baseman has topped his 2008 home run total and is closing in on his sixth 90-RBI campaign. Through Tuesday, he had reached base safely in 90 of 104 games, and gone consecutive games without getting on just once, from July 7-8 vs. Atlanta. He has driven in a career-high seven RBIs twice -- July 2 vs. Milwaukee and Aug. 14 vs. Pittsburgh. Lee is the second Cubs player in history to post two games with seven or more RBIs in the same season, joining Rogers Hornsby, who accomplished the feat in 1931.

Lee didn't get off to a hot start, batting .189 in April, but was batting .325 since May 16 with 19 doubles, two triples, 20 homers and 66 RBIs. His 24 homers are the most since Lee belted a career-high 46 in 2005.

Ramirez missed two months because of a separated shoulder, suffered May 8, but didn't seem to miss a beat upon his return on July 6. He was batting .383 in his past 16 games with four homers, seven doubles and 16 RBIs. The third baseman tied a career high with four hits on July 24 against Cincinnati, and homered in consecutive games July 24-25. In seven straight games, he collected an extra-base hit from July 22-29.

He showed how valuable he is to the team in April, batting .358, and has a .378 average with runners in scoring position.

Soriano has had a season of extremes. He hit .198 in June, batted .345 in July, and was hitting .161 in August. He struggled in the leadoff spot, hitting .228 with 14 homers, and Lou Piniella decided to move Soriano to sixth, where he was hitting .280 with five homers in 32 games. One of those was a walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning on July 27 against Houston.

His on-base percentage has improved (.326 batting sixth). Soriano entered Wedneday's game against San Diego during one of his low points, going 4-for-33 in his past seven contests.

He also has endured injuries, suffering a dislocated finger in July. Switching from leadoff to sixth didn't faze him.

"Most important is to help the team no matter where I am in the lineup," Soriano said. "Being in the lineup every day is more important for me."

The left fielder did reach a milestone this season when he belted his 54th career leadoff homer to pass Craig Biggio on the all-time list. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is first with 81.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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