Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, two players separated by 80 pounds of heft, a foot of height and 24 team wins in the 2017 standings, were named the MVPs of the National and American leagues, respectively, on Thursday night in votes that were equally divergent in terms of their competitiveness.
Stanton, the towering slugger whose 59 homers were the most in 16 years, prevailed over Cincinnati's Joey Votto in the fourth-closest MVP vote in history. Both players received 10 of a possible 30 first-place votes, but Stanton received one additional second-place vote and one more third-place vote than Votto to win by two total points.
"You remember the thoughts you had as a kid, when times were good and bad in the minors and everything building up," Stanton said during a conference call Thursday night of his journey to this point, "and you finally sit and give thanks for that."
Six players received first-place votes in the NL — the others were Paul Goldschmidt (four), Charlie Blackmon (three), Nolan Arenado (two) and Kris Bryant (one) — the most since 1979, when Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell ended up tying for MVP.
In the AL, Altuve, the diminutive hit machine who helped the Astros claim the franchise's first World Series title, won in a rout, taking 27 of the possible 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, to easily outpace New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge.
Listed as 5-foot-6, Altuve tied Phil Rizzuto (1950) and Bobby Shantz (1952) as the shortest MVP in history. The Astros signed him at 16 out of Venezuela for just $15,000 in 2007. He already had failed one tryout, but his father persuaded the team to give him a second chance.
"I always dreamed to be a big leaguer. I always dreamed to be a World Series champion," Altuve said on MLB Network. "But I'm not sure if in my dreams I would be an MVP."
The NL vote was marked by a shift away from traditional thinking that equated "value" with carrying a winning team to the playoffs and that rarely awarded players from losing teams. Stanton's Marlins and Votto's Reds finished below .500 and were a combined 44 games out of first place, but few voters appeared to penalize them for that.
Stanton, whose homer total was the most since Barry Bonds hit a record 73 and Sammy Sosa blasted 64 in 2001, became just the third player from a losing team to win the NL award, joining Andre Dawson and Ernie Banks (twice).
Three Washington Nationals finished in the top 12 of NL balloting, led by third baseman Anthony Rendon, who finished sixth. Ace Max Scherzer, who was named the NL's Cy Young Award winner on Wednesday, finished 10th, and right fielder Bryce Harper was 12th. Second baseman Daniel Murphy received one ninth-place and one 10th-place vote, while first baseman Ryan Zimmerman received a single 10th-place vote.
The AL vote pitted Judge's raw power — his 52 homers this season smashed the rookie record and lifted him to a unanimous victory for AL rookie of the year — against Altuve's all-around brilliance. Altuve won his third AL batting title, hitting a career-high .346, but also boosted his on-base percentage (.410) and slugging percentage (.547) to career highs and stole 32 bases in 38 attempts.
The respective candidacies of Judge and Altuve seemed difficult to distinguish given their divergent skill sets, and even the two wins-above-replacement metrics — the catchall statistic designed to measure a player's overall value — disagreed on who was better, with the FanGraphs.com version favoring Judge and the Baseball-Reference.com version preferring Altuve. In the end, however, Altuve was the overwhelming winner, with Judge (two) and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez (one) the only other players receiving first-place votes.
While Altuve is spending his days basking in the post-World Series glow, Stanton is dealing with a professional crisis of sorts. The Marlins' new ownership group led by Derek Jeter is in the process of trying to trade him to get from under the remaining 10 years and $295 million on his contract. Stanton's contract also grants him full no-trade privileges, meaning he would have to approve any deal.
"It's an interesting feeling and situation for me," Stanton said. "This is the only [organization] I've known, but I also understand the business part of it and the direction new ownership wants to go. They're feeling [the market] out, and we're going to try to feel out a plan here."
Asked whether he might be interested in staying with the Marlins if the team addresses its pitching needs, he said, "It needs to be thoroughly addressed, not just somewhat addressed. There needs to be a big push now."