By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; D05
Many of the feats accomplished this season by Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto surpassed any conventional expectation. He led the National League in on-base and slugging percentage. He hit zero infield pop-ups in 648 plate appearances. He graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. He carried the Reds to their first playoff appearance in 15 years.
Votto capped his season Monday afternoon with one more rare deed, the most improbable of all, the one that will place him aside a select group of players: Votto won the National League MVP award, by a blowout, in a field that included St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.
Votto, who turned 27 in September, received 31 of 32 first-place votes for a season that cemented him as one of the best players in the game. He slugged .600, got on base at a .424 clip and finished third in the National League with 37 home runs. His season was so good that he earned the award over the best player of his generation, a player who happens to play the same position in the same division as Votto.
Pujols finished second in front of Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Roy Halladay, narrowly missing his third straight NL MVP award and fourth overall. Pujols has finished in the top nine every year he's played, and he finished second for the fourth time. (Pujols's finishes, 10 years into a Hall of Fame career, are remarkable: second, first, first, ninth, second, first, third, second, second, fourth.) The only players to win an MVP during Pujols's 10-year career, other than him, are Barry Bonds, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and, now, Votto.
"It was pretty freaking awesome to have beaten Albert Pujols for the MVP," Votto said Monday during a conference call. "You can't help but watch one of the greatest of all-time."
Votto's victory follows a turbulent two seasons. In 2008, Votto went on the disabled list following the death of his father. In 2009, Votto missed 21 games while handling depression and anxiety. The issues he overcame only made the award sweeter.
"When I heard, I couldn't help but cry," Votto said. "This meant so much to me and would have meant so much to my father."
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman finished 16th, the highest for a Nationals player since Alfonso Soriano finished sixth in 2006 and third highest a Nationals player has ever finished. (Chad Cordero finished 14th in 2005.) First baseman Adam Dunn finished tied for 21st.
Zimmerman, who last year finished tied for 25th, received the second-most votes for any player on a losing team, only one fewer than Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun. Zimmerman appeared on eight of 32 ballots, receiving two seventh-place votes, one eighth, two ninth and three 10th. Dunn, who trailed only Pujols with 38 home runs, received one seventh-place vote, two ninth and three 10th.