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Model of consistency, Brantley third in AL MVP voting

Following breakout season, outfielder finishes behind Trout, V-Mart
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- The Indians view Michael Brantley as the model ballplayer for teammates and prospects to follow. This was evident in the spring, when general manager Chris Antonetti requested that a transcript of Brantley's quotes during a press conference be distributed to the team's Minor Leaguers.

Brantley's consistency with his comments, demeanor and production are reasons why Cleveland invested in a long-term contract for the outfielder before the 2014 season began. Brantley showed his gratitude with an All-Star campaign that ranked as one of the greatest seasons in franchise history, and led to Thursday's third-place finish in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

CLEVELAND -- The Indians view Michael Brantley as the model ballplayer for teammates and prospects to follow. This was evident in the spring, when general manager Chris Antonetti requested that a transcript of Brantley's quotes during a press conference be distributed to the team's Minor Leaguers.

Brantley's consistency with his comments, demeanor and production are reasons why Cleveland invested in a long-term contract for the outfielder before the 2014 season began. Brantley showed his gratitude with an All-Star campaign that ranked as one of the greatest seasons in franchise history, and led to Thursday's third-place finish in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

"There's no disappointment at all," Brantley said. "I was honored and blessed to even be mentioned in that category. My whole goal is wins and losses. I don't look at stats. I don't care where I finish in the MVP. I care about getting that World Series ring."

The award deservingly went to Angels superstar Mike Trout, who finished as the runner-up to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in each of the previous two years. This time around, Trout stood tallest in the voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, garnering all 30 first-place votes to capture his first MVP.

Trout led the voting with 420 points, following by Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez (229) and Brantley. For his work as Cleveland's left fielder, Brantley collected eight second-place votes and six third-place votes, finishing with 191 points on the ballot.

Video: Michael Brantley third in AL MVP voting

Brantley's respectable finish in the MVP race capped off a memorable awards season for the Indians, who saw pitcher Corey Kluber capture the AL Cy Young Award on Wednesday. Last week, Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes -- both finalists for AL Gold Glove awards -- each earned an AL Silver Slugger Award for being the top hitter at their positions.

Brantley hopes that Indians' fans are as optimistic as the players about the team's future.

"For Cleveland fans, they should be excited," Brantley said. "We have a great group of young guys that are getting better each and every day. It's going to be a fun season to watch in 2015. I'm glad to be a part of it."

It is hard to argue with the voters leaning toward Trout, who led the American League in WAR (7.9), runs scored (115), runs created (137) and extra-base hits (84), while posting a .287/.377/.561 slash line to go along with 36 homers, 39 doubles and 111 RBIs. The Angels' outfielder was the best player in the AL on the league's best team in the regular season.

In a different year, Brantley's unique season might have taken home MVP honors.

Brantley played in a career-high 156 games and finished second in the league in hits (200) and third in the league in average (.327). He led the AL with a .376 batting average with runners in scoring position, ranked fourth in the league in on-base percentage (.385) and finished fifth in WAR (7.0). Brantley was also fifth in the AL with 67 extra-base hits.

Along the way, Brantley collected 20 home runs, 23 stolen bases, 45 doubles, 94 runs and 97 RBIs.

"We've always felt Michael was a really good player," Antonetti said at the end of the season. "We were hopeful that he would stay healthy and just continue to do what he's always done. ... He's that guy that's also gotten better each and every year. He came into Spring Training this year more physical than any year in the past."

Brantley became the first Indians batter to reach 200 hits in a season since Kenny Lofton achieved the feat in 1996 and he joined Grady Sizemore (four times), Joe Carter (three) Shin-Soo Choo (twice), Roberto Alomar (twice), Matt Lawton (once), Albert Belle (once), Toby Harrah (once) and Bobby Bonds (once) as the only players in team history to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals in a season.

In Cleveland history, Brantley became the first player to end a single campaign with at least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 45 doubles and 200 hits. Brantley was only the ninth player in Major League history to hit those marks in one year. The others on that short list include Jacoby Ellsbury (2011), Hanley Ramirez ('07), Alfonso Soriano ('02), Craig Biggio (1998), Larry Walker ('97), Ellis Burks ('96), Vada Pinson ('59) and Chuck Klein ('32).

Brantley joined Ellsbury (2011), Walker (1997), Burks ('96), Klein ('32) and Babe Herman ('29) as the only players in baseball history to have at least a .320 average, 20 homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs and 200 hits in one season.

The Indians, who remained in contention for an AL Wild Card until the final weekend of the season, needed the kind of year Brantley turned in to stay afloat. While key players such as Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis dealt with injuries and inconsistencies, Brantley provided a steady bat in the heart of Cleveland's lineup.

"I believe that leadership is given to you by your teammates," Brantley said. "Me, personally, I just go out there and try to lead by example. I don't say too much. I'm kind of quiet, but I play hard each and every day, I try to be the best teammate and pick up my teammate when he's down or he needs help, and they do the same for me."

Brantley's offensive WAR (7.2) accounted for 30.4 percent of the Tribe's total offensive WAR, showing how critical he was to the team's lineup. Trout and Martinez, who each were part of division-winning clubs, had more offensive contributions around them in their respective offenses.

The performance by Brantley this year only reinforced Cleveland's reasons for inking him during Spring Training to a four-year, $25 million extension that includes a team option for 2018. The Indians already felt they had an important member of their core in place. Now, the Tribe knows it has a budding star capable of an MVP-caliber season.

"He's a complete player," Antonetti said. "He was a huge part of our success and we think one of the best players in the American League."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley