Astros second baseman José Altuve, at 5-foot-6 one of the smallest players in baseball, was the big winner Wednesday night when the 25th Annual Players Choice Awards were announced, as he earned the Player of the Year Award.
Altuve was also chosen by his peers as the American League's Most Outstanding Player, and he also won the Majestic Always Game Award for the second consecutive year, a trophy that recognizes consistent intensity and hustle.
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"I knew [as a youngster] I wasn't going to be 6 feet tall, so I have to always give 200 percent," Altuve told MLB Network studio hosts Greg Amsinger and Cliff Floyd.
The other finalists for the overall Player of the Year Award were Red Sox teammates Mookie Betts and David Ortiz.
Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, named in honor of the Major League Baseball Players Association's first executive director and given each year to the player "who inspires others through his on-field performances and contributions to his community."
The MLBPA further honored each league's most outstanding pitchers (right-handers Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs and Rick Porcello of the Red Sox), rookies (Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer), players (Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy and Altuve) and comeback players (late Marlins right-hander José Fernández and Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo).
Ballots were cast in big league clubhouses on Sept. 20.
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Altuve has established himself as a legitimate superstar by batting .338 with 30 stolen bases, 24 homers, 96 RBIs and a .928 OPS. He recognizes that pitchers may start trying to come up with new ways to get him out.
"I just have to keep working hard," Altuve said. "You have to stay focused on your plan. If one day they start pitching you differently, you have to stay focused on what's getting you all the success. Sometimes you have to change your approach a little bit. But I'm going to work really hard to focus on the pitch I want to hit."
Granderson, who also received the Roberto Clemente Award for his charity work, was honored in part for his Grand Kids Foundation which inspires and encourages positive youth development through education, physical fitness and nutrition. He also personally donated $5 million to his alma mater, the University of Illinois-Chicago that has led to a program that benefits 15,000 kids a year. The other finalists for the Miller Award were Anthony Rizzo of the world champion Cubs and Justin Turner of the Dodgers.
"It's great to get a chance to be mentioned with somebody that's helped put us in a position to be able to go out there and play this great game of baseball, bargaining for players' rights," Granderson said. "To receive this is an honor and a privilege. I'm just doing what comes naturally to me. My mom and my dad have always been that way. Providing a meal for the neighbors. Taking the jacket I can't wear anymore and giving it to a neighborhood kid. Providing rides to and from practice. So I had seen that growing up and just kind of followed suit."
The most emotional presentation had to be the Comeback Award that went to Fernandez. The voting took place five days before the brilliant 24-year-old pitcher was killed in a boating accident. At the time, he was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2014.
Trumbo led the Major Leagues with 47 homers a year after being traded from the D-backs to the Mariners, hitting a total of 22 homers, before being traded to the Orioles after the season. He said watching how Seattle teammates like Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz timed fastballs were a key to his big season.
Hendricks broke a string of three straight seasons in which a Dodgers pitcher, Clayton Kershaw twice and Zack Greinke, was voted the most outstanding pitcher in the National League. Porcello led the big leagues with a 22-4 record, and he conceded that will be hard to top.
"I don't want to put pressure on myself to try to do better than that," Porcello said. "I'd love to be able to replicate that again. That's it. I don't think have been many guys in the history of the game who have won 22 games, so it's hard to sit here and say I could do better. It was kind of that perfect storm. I'm pretty grateful for the season I had."
Seager, who batted .308 with an .877 OPS and made the All-Star team, is considered the front-runner to be win the NL Rookie of the Year Award when the Baseball Writers' Association of America awards are announced next week. The players opted for the consistent Fulmer (11-7, 3.06) over the spectacular contributions Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez made (20 homers, 42 RBIs) in 53 games after being called up.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant may be the favorite to win the BBWAA NL MVP Award next week, but Murphy got the nod from the players by hitting .347 with a .985 OPS in his first year with the Nationals after signing a three-year free-agent contract.
Each league winner will have $20,000 donated in his name by the Players Trust to the charity of his choice. The two overall winners receive $50,000 grants.