The remarkable legacy of Mike Trout continues to grow. The Los Angeles Angels outfielder was named the MVP of the American League for the second time in five MLB seasons on Thursday, receiving 19 first-place votes to top Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox.
Trout also has three second-place finishes under his belt, finishing behind Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and 2013, before taking runner-up to Josh Donaldson last season. That made him just the second player in MLB history to finish first or second in MVP balloting five straight seasons.
For the record, the other was Barry Bonds from 2000-2004. At the beginning of that run, Bonds was 35 years old and 15 seasons into his career that would ultimately be marred by controversy, so the territory Trout has entered is truly unprecedented.
Some would even argue Trout has gotten the short end of the stick in the voting. There are those who believe he should have at least two more MVP awards, and potentially five based on his numbers. In two of those instances, the MVP debates centered around the numbers. In 2013 though, Trout seemed to be penalized for the Angels winning just 78 games.
Another woeful season (the Angels won only 74 games in 2016) seemed to be the biggest obstacle Trout would face again this season, but something changed this time around, and it changed for the better.
For the most part, MVP voters ignored Trout’s surroundings and focused on his talent and numbers that further cemented his status of baseball’s best player. He finished 2016 hitting .315/.441/.550 with 29 home runs, 32 doubles, five triples, 100 RBI, 123 runs and 30 stolen bases. All of which would be considered great numbers on a contending team, but are made even more impressive in a lineup that struck no fear into opponents beyond Trout and Albert Pujols.
We know voters weighed Trout’s team situation less based on two things: history and the competition he faced.
He’s now just the sixth MVP ever to play on a losing team, joining Ernie Banks (1958 & 1959), Andre Dawson (1987), Cal Ripkin (1991) and Alex Rodriguez (2003). Prior to this season, only 38 of 169 MVP awards handed out by the BBWAA had gone to players on non-playoff teams. So again, he achieved truly rare status by overcoming history and typical voter preference.
What really highlights a change in voter philosophy though is the man he beat out. Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts had a legitimate MVP case too, and was expected by many to get the nod based on his team winning the AL East. Rather than use Betts’ team success as a built-in easy tiebreaker, voters crunched the numbers, weighed the production and in the end couldn’t deny the talent that separates Trout from the pack.
It’s a promising development that washes some of the taste from our mouths resulting from the AL Cy Young voting. There’s never been a specific criteria focusing on team results in the MVP voting, meaning voters are being trusted to weigh all sides of the argument before making their choice. In this instance, it’s impossible to argue against them making the right choice, because Mike Trout has proven to be the measuring stick year-in and year-out.
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