You are reminded that you love Major League Baseball because of men like Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton. Because of who they are and what they represent. Because of how they define greatness in such different ways. Isn't that why this sport is different?If you're 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, you've got
You are reminded that you love Major League Baseball because of men like Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton. Because of who they are and what they represent. Because of how they define greatness in such different ways. Isn't that why this sport is different?
If you're 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, you've got a a chance to do special things. That's what Stanton being named the National League Most Valuable Player on Thursday means.
But if you're 5-foot-6, you've also got a chance to achieve greatness in a sport that is more about talent and determination than size. Altuve being named the American League MVP is proof of that.
"That's what I love about baseball, that every single guy can play the game," Altuve said. "There's not a rule you have to be six feet tall to play baseball and become a good player."
Altuve won surprisingly easily in balloting done by the Baseball Writers Association of America, while Stanton finished atop the fourth-closest voting in history.
Altuve collected 27 of 30 first-place votes and finished far in front of Yankees rookie Aaron Judge, 405 points to 279. Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez was third with 237.
• November reign: Altuve wins AL MVP Award
:: NL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::
Stanton edged Reds first baseman Joey Votto, 302-300. D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was third with 239 votes.
Here's how split the NL voters were: Stanton and Votto received 10 first-place votes apiece, but four other players got at least one.
Stanton was as low as sixth on one ballot, and Votto got two fifth-place votes. And then there was Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon, who received at least one vote in the first nine spots on the 10-man ballot.
For Stanton, who missed 131 games with injuries in 2015-16, playing a career-high 159 games was the key. Some had wondered if he'd ever put it all together for a full season.
• Stanton fishes out close vote, wins NL MVP
This was that season. Stanton changed his hitting mechanics, stayed on the field and hit 18 home runs in a 25-game stretch in August to captivate an entire sport by making a run at 60 homers.
"It's almost like a start-from-scratch moment," Stanton said. "You remember the thoughts you had as a kid and when times were good and bad as a pro and in the Minors and everything building up, and you just finally sit and give thanks for that, and I'll have more time to think about everything that's gone on in the seasons over the years and to look forward to a new journey, too."
The last time six different players received first-place votes was 2011 when Justin Verlander won a tight AL race. This was the closet NL race since 1979, when eight players got first-place votes, and Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez finished in a tie.
Besides that crazy year, there have been only two closer races: 1947, when Joe DiMaggio finished one point in front of Ted Williams for the AL MVP, and 1944, when Marty Marion got one more point than Bill Nicholson in the NL voting.
Altuve being named AL MVP put the appropriate finishing touch on a season in which the Astros won their first World Series and celebrated the induction of first baseman Jeff Bagwell into the Hall of Fame.
"I don't know what to say," Altuve said. "I wasn't expecting this. This is great. I want to thank God, my family that is right outside and all my teammates. I think my teammates made this for me. They made me an MVP and I'm so happy I feel like I want to cry right now. I don't know what to do, but I wasn't expecting this. I want to congratulate Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez for having a great season."
Altuve won his third batting title in four years by hitting .346 overall and .381 on the road. He hit lower than .300 in just one month and was at his best when the Astros needed him the most.
:: AL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::
When shortstop Carlos Correa missed 40 games with a thumb injury, Altuve stepped up with some of his best baseball, hitting .384 with a 1.102 OPS. He lit up Statcast™ this season, leading the Majors with a .372 average on fastballs and leading the AL with a .361 average on breaking balls.
Many thought the AL voting would be closer because the case for Judge, who was named AL Rookie of the Year on Monday, was such an easy one to make. He led the Majors with 8.2 WAR and was second with a 1.049 OPS.
Besides hitting 52 home runs, a new rookie record, Judge hit the hardest home run of the season (121.1 mph) and also the longest (495 feet), according to Statcast™.
If Altuve and Judge separated themselves, it might have come in August when Judge hit .215 and Altuve .441. Or it might have come in situations defined as "close and late" when Altuve hit .441, Judge .215. In the seventh inning and later, Altuve hit .361, Judge .234.
There was an even more vigorous debate in the NL in which the case for Votto was a .454 OBP that was 39 points higher than anyone else's. But Stanton led the NL with a .631 slugging percentage and had a 1.007 OPS (trailing only Votto's 1.032 in the NL).
With the Marlins listening to offers for Stanton, 28, his 2017 season is a reminder that he has the ability to upgrade any lineup.
"It's an interesting feeling and situation for me," Stanton said. "This is the only place I've known. But I also understand the business part of it and the direction that new ownership wants to go and they're feeling it out and we're going to try to figure out a plan here."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.