Joey Votto’s masterpiece 2017 season was not rewarded Thursday with the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
The Cincinnati Reds first baseman finished two points shy of winner Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. They both had 10 first-place votes. Stanton won the total vote, 302-300. Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt finished a distant third.
“Just so close,” Votto said. “(I’m) really, really grateful for the support. I cannot believe how close it was. I just can’t believe coming up two points short. It’s so cool in a way coming up that short. Most of the time it’s a landslide or it’s clear. This wasn’t that. That was one of the entertaining aspects of it. Because Giancarlo and I did things so differently and because we’re both on losing clubs, it was for me a very interesting vote.”
Votto was vying for the award for the second time — this time despite playing for a last-place team.
While his team stumbled (especially on the mound), Votto did all he could to earn the honor, which he won in 2010 when the Reds were NL Central champions.
The 34-year-old played all 162 games for the second time and failed to get on base in only 12 of those appearances. In 107 games, he got on base at least twice.
He reached base a major-league-high 321 times, breaking his own team record by two and leading Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (second in the NL) by 33.
Votto also led the majors in on-base percentage (.454), walks (134), intentional walks (20), and walk/strikeout ratio while batting .320 with 36 homers and 100 RBIs.
The five-time All-Star became the first Reds player with at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 300 total bases and 300 times on base.
There is precedent for winning the MVP on a last-place team: Andre Dawson did it for the Cubs in 1987 and Alex Rodriguez did it as a member of the Rangers in 2003.
Other Reds to win the award include Ernie Lombardi, Bucky Walters, Frank McCormick, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster and Barry Larkin. Bench and Morgan both won it twice in the 1970s.
Stanton had the highest WAR (wins above replacement) in the National League and hit a league-high 59 homers while also pacing the NL in runs (123) and RBIs (131).
His team finished in second place in the NL East.
Goldschmidt’s Diamondbacks made the postseason, losing in the NL Division Series to the Dodgers.
He trailed both Votto and Stanton in advanced stats but put up big traditional numbers — 36 homers, 120 RBIs, 117 runs and 18 steals.