Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player over Albert Pujols, who claimed the award the past two years.
Votto, who finished second in the NL with a .324 batting average and third in home runs (37) and runs batted in (113), received 31 of 32 first-place votes and 443 total points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman who led the NL in homers (42) and RBI (118), received the other first-place vote and was second on 21 other ballots for 279 points, while batting-average leader Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies was third with 240 points.
“I was surprised,” Votto said of the disparity in the voting results. “When I found out I won the National League MVP I thought I must have snuck it in there. I didn’t think it would be so conclusive.”
Players received 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third, on down to one for 10th in the balloting that was completed before Major League Baseball’s postseason.
The San Diego Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez was fourth (197 points, followed by Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki (132) in fifth, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay (130) in sixth and the San Francisco Giants’ Aubrey Huff (70) in seventh.
Votto, a 27-year-old who was born in Toronto, was named a first-time All-Star in 2010, his fourth season in the major leagues.
He led the NL with a .424 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage, demonstrating his ability to both get on base and hit for power. Votto’s 34 go-ahead hits led the major leagues, according to ESPN.com.
The effort helped propel the Reds to a 91-71 record, the NL Central Division title and the team’s first playoff appearance in 15 years.
During the 2009 season, Votto spent time on the disabled list while dealing with depression and anxiety attacks following the sudden death of his 52-year-old father the previous August. One attack “got to the point where I felt I was going to die,” he told reporters upon his return, according to MLB.com.
Today, Votto said it was too early to put the past couple years in perspective with what he’s accomplished.
“Not to be dramatic or anything, but after I was told I couldn’t help but cry because I know how much something like this meant to me and would have meant to my father,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “I have overcome a lot, and I am very proud of myself.”
The Reds’ 1995 playoff season also marked the last time a Cincinnati player was named MVP, when shortstop Barry Larkin took the honor.
Reds players have won 10 other MVPs since the award was first given out in 1911. The others are Ernie Lombardi (1938), Bucky Walters (1939), Frank McCormick (1940), Frank Robinson (1961), Johnny Bench (1970, 1972), Pete Rose (1973), Joe Morgan (1975, 1976) and George Foster (1977).
Today’s results marked the eighth time that Pujols finished in the top three in MVP voting, one behind all-time leader Barry Bonds, who won the award a record seven times.
Pujols, who also was named NL MVP in 2005, would have become the first player other than Bonds to claim the honor four times.
The 30-year-old Pujols led the NL with 42 home runs, 118 RBI and 115 runs scored as the Cardinals went 86-76 to finish five games behind the Reds in the NL Central Division, missing the playoffs. His .312 batting average was sixth in the league, his on-base percentage (.414) trailed only Votto and his .596 slugging percentage was third.
Carlos Gonzalez, 25, led the NL with a .336 batting average and 351 total bases, posting 34 home runs and 117 RBI.
His .289 batting average in road games was .91 lower than at home. He had 26 homers and 76 RBI at offense-friendly Coors Field, compared with eight home runs and 41 RBI in three fewer road games.
“Albert is the great player,” Votto said. “Myself and Carlos Gonzalez, we’re learning how to be major leaguers and establish ourselves.”