NEW YORK -- The first challenger surfaced in early May, back when Pete Alonso was only beginning to establish himself as baseball’s best rookie. Not content to let Alonso have that title uncontested, Chris Paddack engaged him with some blustery words and fiery fastballs. A brief rivalry formed, though by season’s end, Alonso had long since laughed longer and harder.
One by one, additional challengers presented themselves: Dakota Hudson, Alonso’s old college adversary; Fernando Tatis Jr., whose season-ending injury robbed him of any real chance of toppling Alonso off his perch; and Mike Soroka, who offered the best challenge in the end. The Mets first baseman kept each of them safely behind him throughout the summer, doing nothing to jeopardize his status as the heavy favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Monday, his coronation became official. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced that Alonso received 29 of a possible 30 first-place votes, with the other going to Soroka. Alonso’s 148 total points easily paced the NL rookie field.
National League results
- Pete Alonso, NYM: 29 (1st place), 1 (2nd place) -- 148 points
- Mike Soroka, ATL: 1 (1st), 25 (2nd), 2 (3rd) -- 82
- Fernando Tatis Jr., SD: 2 (2nd), 20 (3rd) -- 26
- Bryan Reynolds, PIT: 1 (2nd), 6 (3rd) -- 9
- Dakota Hudson, STL: 1 (2nd), 1 (3rd) -- 4
- Victor Robles, WSH: 1 (3rd) -- 1
“That’s some serious, serious elite company,” Alonso said of winning Rookie of the Year. “To be a part of that, I just feel really blessed. I’m going to use this success, and build off of that as motivation to keep going, keep pushing.”
The announcement bookended a journey that began the day before the regular season, when Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen informed Alonso that he had made the team. Outspoken regarding his disappointment of being left off the roster the previous September, Alonso vindicated Van Wagenen’s decision with a hit in his first game, a home run in his fourth and nine homers in his first 26.
He never slowed his pace. Alonso won the Home Run Derby in July, broke the Mets’ franchise home run record in August and, on the penultimate day of the season, set a Major League rookie record with his 53rd homer, tops in the big leagues. Altogether, he played in 161 games, hitting .260/.358/.583 with 103 runs scored and 120 RBIs. Asked Monday what stood out about Alonso’s rookie season, Van Wagenen quipped: “Fifty-three homers. That’s a lot.
“Pete kept the same attitude that he came into Spring Training with through the entire season,” Van Wagenen added. “He was a good teammate. He was a true professional. And obviously, he was lightning in a bottle for all Mets fans.”
The only surprise to Monday’s announcement was that Alonso did not win unanimously. Soroka, who finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting, received one first-place vote. Tatis finished third, despite appearing in only 84 games. Only three other rookies received votes in a process that took place before the postseason.
“To just win the award, it doesn’t matter if it’s unanimous or not,” Alonso said. “It’s such a blessing. To just have that title is unbelievable. So whether it’s unanimous or not, to me it doesn’t matter.”
Alonso became the Mets’ sixth Rookie of the Year winner, giving them at least two more than any other expansion team. The last Met to win was Jacob deGrom in 2014; the last Mets position player was Darryl Strawberry in 1983.
Going forward, Alonso remains one of the most significant pieces on the Mets’ roster. He will enter his age-25 season as the Mets’ unquestioned starting first baseman, with a chance to expand upon the leadership role he accepted naturally as a rookie. Asked Monday about the possibility of offering Alonso a long-term contract extension, Van Wagenen put aside that question for another day, saying only that Alonso “deserves everything he gets.”
“Every experience that I’ve had, it’s just all led up to the success and the joy of this year,” Alonso said. “I’m just so happy that everything has come together the way it has, and I’m just looking to try and be even better next year, and win more games, get to the playoffs and win a championship.”