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Kershaw claims NL MVP; Trout unanimous in AL

MLB.com

The Most Valuable Player Award always acknowledges two of the game's greatest players, but the 2014 hardware handed out Thursday has a heightened sense of history with the rare pitching gem that is Clayton Kershaw and the unique all-around talent that is Mike Trout being named as the very best in Major League Baseball.

It takes a rare season for a pitcher to win MVP honors. That's what Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace, delivered, earning the first National League double as MVP and Cy Young Award winner since the season first known as The Year of the Pitcher: 1968. In voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Kershaw earned 18 first-place votes to claim the NL MVP one day after being awarded the Cy Young.

The Most Valuable Player Award always acknowledges two of the game's greatest players, but the 2014 hardware handed out Thursday has a heightened sense of history with the rare pitching gem that is Clayton Kershaw and the unique all-around talent that is Mike Trout being named as the very best in Major League Baseball.

It takes a rare season for a pitcher to win MVP honors. That's what Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace, delivered, earning the first National League double as MVP and Cy Young Award winner since the season first known as The Year of the Pitcher: 1968. In voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Kershaw earned 18 first-place votes to claim the NL MVP one day after being awarded the Cy Young.

It takes a unique set of tools to become the game's elite position player at age 23. That's what Trout, the Angels' center fielder, did in earning his first American League MVP as the youngest unanimous winner in history, following up on a Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 and a stellar sophomore season to continue what is one of the best starts to a baseball career that's been seen.

Video: Mike Trout on winning the AL MVP Award

That these two dizzying and now fully decorated talents play home games within a handful of miles of each other has its own air of history, too. The Los Angeles teams that compete in the Freeway Series marked their first such sweep of MVP Awards -- just the 12th in baseball history and third since 1959, the last one coming in 2002, when the Giants' Barry Bonds and the A's Miguel Tejada took MVPs home to the Bay Area.

Beyond the geography, these two players are writing their names in the baseball sky -- Kershaw in Dodger blue, Trout in Angels red -- as the two very brightest stars in the galaxy.

Kershaw becomes just the 11th pitcher to earn the MVP-Cy Young double and the third Dodgers pitcher to do it. The other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year are the Dodgers' Don Newcombe (1956) and Sandy Koufax (1963), the Cardinals' Bob Gibson and the Tigers' Denny McLain (1968), the A's Vida Blue (1971), the Brewers' Rollie Fingers (1981), the Tigers' Willie Hernandez (1984), the Red Sox's Roger Clemens (1986), the A's Dennis Eckersley (1992) and, most recently, the Tigers' Justin Verlander in 2011. Kershaw is the 11th Dodgers player to win it, the first since Kirk Gibson in 1988.

NL MVP/CY YOUNG WINNERS
Year Player Team
1956 Don Newcombe Dodgers
1963 Sandy Koufax Dodgers
1968 Bob Gibson Cardinals
2014 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers

"You never in a million years think you're going to win an MVP, let alone win a Cy Young Award, let alone, you know, being in the big leagues," Kershaw said on Thursday night. "It really is amazing. Individual awards aren't why we play this game, but I definitely don't take this honor lightly, especially being a pitcher and winning the MVP. It's pretty awesome."

Video: Kershaw wins 2014 National League MVP Award

No pitcher has pulled off the MVP/Cy feat twice, and at age 26, there's no telling what else Kershaw has in store. But that's getting ahead of things, and 2014 had plenty to admire -- starting with an unprecedented fourth consecutive ERA title thanks to a 1.77 mark that was the lowest in the NL since Greg Maddux posted a 1.63 ERA in 1995. Kershaw led the Majors in ERA and with 21 victories, a 0.86 WHIP and six complete games, and the Dodgers won 23 of his 27 starts in a season interrupted early by the left-hander's back injury. Naturally, he worked in a no-hitter, too.

"There's no one more deserving of this award, and I couldn't be prouder of this young man," said Newcombe in a Dodgers statement.

Kershaw, who picked up his third Cy Young Award in as many years and swept the major Players Choice Awards, won the 2014 MVP with 335 voting points to 298 received by runner-up Giancarlo Stanton, the difference coming in the 18 first-place votes Kershaw gained to the eight for Miami's right fielder. The voting was based on ballots from two writers in each league city at the end of the regular season, with 14 points for first, nine for second, eight for third, down to one for 10th. Kershaw had nine second-place votes, one for third and two for fourth, with Stanton followed by 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen in third place and the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy fourth.

Trout, on the other hand, was a runaway winner in the AL after two runner-up finishes in his first two seasons. Aside from being the youngest of the 10 unanimous winners in the AL and 18 overall, Trout became the fifth-youngest player in history to win MVP honors, at 23 years, 52 days at the end of the regular season. Only Stan Musial (1943), Johnny Bench (1970), Vida Blue (1971) and Cal Ripken Jr. (1983) were younger, with Blue the youngest at 22 years, 64 days and Ripken only 13 days younger than Trout. The New Jersey native became the third Angels player to win it, following Don Baylor (1979) and Vladimir Guerrero (2004).

 

After twice finishing second to the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera amid much debate but ultimately in elections that weren't that close, the mandate for Trout left no doubt as to the Angels phenom's place atop the AL in 2014. He received all 30 votes, and his 420 points were well ahead of Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, the runner-up. Martinez had 229 points and 16 second-place votes after leading the Majors with a .974 on-base plus slugging percentage, and Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who was at 191 with eight second-place votes after going for 200 hits, 45 doubles, 20 homers and 20 steals. AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu of the White Sox finished fourth in the voting.

This time, it was Trout's name called as the AL's top player. He was clearly honored and a bit choked up once the reality hit. "When the announcement came out, it means a lot," Trout said. "You always want to win, so when you do that, you get emotional a little bit."

Trout's stellar start to his career hit a crescendo with his 2014 performance garnering his highest honors to date. He's the 10th player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first three seasons in the Majors, and he has three All-Star Game appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards and the 2014 Hank Aaron Award to his credit already.

"Mike has had an incredible start to his career," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "His play this year totally embodies what an MVP is all about."

YOUNGEST TO WIN MVP
Player Year Age
Vida Blue 1971 22 Y, 64 D
Stan Musial 1943 22 Y, 316 D
Johnny Bench 1970 22 Y, 298 D
Cal Ripken Jr. 1983 23 Y, 39 D
Mike Trout 2014 23 Y, 52 D
Age on final day of regular season

In 2014, Trout became the first player in history to lead his league in runs scored in his first three years in the Majors, topping the AL with 115. He set or tied career highs in doubles with 39, triples with nine, home runs with 36 and RBIs with an AL-high 111, also leading the Majors in extra-base hits with 84 and total bases with 338. The numbers just go on and on, and the superb talent can be seen with every swing and every running dive in the outfield as Trout, who took his power game to a new level in 2014, evolves as a player.

"It's just the hard work you put into the offseason -- just getting a little older and getting a little stronger definitely helps," Trout said.

There's the amazing thing for both Kershaw and Trout, now that they're both on top of the baseball world: They're only getting better, and they're only getting started.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout