Bellinger completes Awards trifecta with MVP

LA star gets 'a little emotional' surrounded by family, friends

November 15th, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Gold Glove, check. Silver Slugger, check. MVP, check.

completed a Triple Crown like no other Dodger on Thursday, when he was named the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player, becoming the first Dodger in the same season to win awards for the best player in the NL and best defensive player and hitter at his position.

Bellinger wins the 14th MVP Award for the Dodgers, the first since Clayton Kershaw in 2014, the second since Kirk Gibson in 1988 and the sixth in Los Angeles Dodgers history. Bellinger won the award over defending MVP Christian Yelich and World Series hero Anthony Rendon. He received 19 first-place votes and was at No. 1 or 2 on 29 out of 30 ballots.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” said a misty-eyed Bellinger while appearing on MLB Network’s broadcast by live feed, surrounded by his family and friends. “It’s really cool that my family and friends are here. I’m a little emotional. It’s really cool. It’s what you dream of, man, for sure.”

Ballots, submitted before the start of the postseason, were cast by two writers in each NL city. They are tabulated on a system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third on down to one for 10th.

Bellinger had already become the fifth player in franchise history to earn the Rawlings Gold Glove and Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in the same season, joining Adrián González (2014), Matt Kemp (2009, '11), Russell Martin ('07) and Dusty Baker (1981).

In his third season with the Dodgers, Bellinger appeared in a team-high 156 games, batting .305 with 34 doubles, 47 homers, 115 RBIs, 121 runs scored and 84 extra-base hits. He set career highs in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks and stolen bases. He finished fourth in the Majors in homers and third in franchise history behind only Shawn Green (49) and Adrián Beltré (48). His 26 homers at Dodger Stadium set a franchise record for homers at home, while his 18 homers against left-handers were the most in the NL.

Bellinger credits his friendly rivalry with Yelich, last year’s NL MVP -- and this year’s runner-up -- for giving him some extra motivation.

“Without [Yelich] having this good of a year ... I think he pushed me to be a better player,” Bellinger said. “He’s an unbelievable player, but he’s honestly a better dude. We became buddies over the year.”

The 24-year-old Bellinger was the first Dodger with more than 100 RBIs since González in 2014. On Aug. 2, Bellinger reached 100 career home runs, passing Mike Piazza as the fastest player in franchise history to reach the mark. He also set the franchise record for most home runs before the All-Star break with 30.

The 2017 NL Rookie of the Year did all of this after a 2018 season in which he was reduced to a platoon role because he struggled against left-handed pitching. Last winter, Bellinger worked with new hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc and found a more comfortable and consistent stance. He responded with 18 homers, 44 RBIs and a .982 OPS against lefties in '19, compared to six homers, 25 RBIs and a .681 OPS the year before.

“[The 2018 season] was a very humbling experience for personal reasons, and I knew that that wasn’t the player that I wanted to be,” Bellinger said. “I just needed to find a way to be more consistent with myself. And hitting coaches [Brant Brown] and Van Scoyoc really locked it down for me. And when I was going through things, we’d have great conversations. So there was help around me, it wasn’t just myself.”

Bellinger was named NL Player of the Month for March/April, when he posted a slash line of .431/.508/.890 with six doubles, one triple, 14 home runs and 37 RBIs over 31 games.

A natural and gifted first baseman, Bellinger was sent to the outfield in 2019 and made that transition look easy, winning his first Gold Glove Award. He played primarily in right field, but in the second half slid over to center, providing manager Dave Roberts with the flexibility to rotate players into the corners.

Past MVP Award winners: AL | NL

“I definitely think that helped,” Bellinger said. “I don’t know exactly what goes into the votes, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to show off what I can do this year, for sure, out there.”

For Bellinger, as thrilled as he is to have his achievements recognized, he views it as just one step in the process of becoming the best version of himself.

“It just makes me so much hungrier to keep performing right,” Bellinger said. “The feeling that you have, why would you ever want to not receive this? So I gotta keep working really hard at what I do and hopefully, keep getting better.”