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Next generation dominates MVP race

Baton has been passed to exceptionally talented youngsters @RichardJustice

Inside this season's Most Valuable Player voting is a larger statement about the state of Major League Baseball: The game has been passed to the next generation.

And that generation is scary good.

Inside this season's Most Valuable Player voting is a larger statement about the state of Major League Baseball: The game has been passed to the next generation.

And that generation is scary good.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was a runaway winner of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's National League MVP Award balloting, announced Thursday night. He's all of 24 years old.

Finishing close behind him was 22-year-old Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who placed third, and 25-year-old Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, in fifth place.

:: NL MVP voting results ::

Even the older players in the top five aren't really old. Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, 31, finished second, and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 27, was fourth.

All-time National League MVP Award winners

Now to the American League.

Mike Trout is this generation's best player. Not even a close call there. This MVP Award is his second in three years. He also has finished second three times and is five-for-five in leading the American League in Wins Above Replacement.

In Trout, we are seeing a player who deserves to be compared to any player of any generation.

He is 25 years old.

All-time American League MVP Award winners

Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (24), Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (26), Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (30) and Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (24) grabbed the four spots behind Trout in AL balloting.

:: AL MVP voting totals ::

All of this is a reminder of what MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred frequently tells players and fans. That this is a special time to be a baseball fan. That the sport is blessed to have more great young talent than at perhaps any time in history.

These transitions from one generation to another can't be forced. They either happen, or they don't.

In this case, the transition seemingly has happened every month or so as new players debut, not just the top MVP finishers, but plenty of others, from Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor to Cubs infielder Addison Russell and Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez.

This year's balloting reflected a breakthrough of another sort. Trout is just the fifth player in history to win an MVP Award while playing for a sub-.500 team.

And the list is baseball royalty: Ernie Banks (1958-59), Andre Dawson (1987), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991) and Alex Rodriguez (2003).

Video: Trout honored with 2016 AL Most Valuable Player Award

Voters have been reluctant to check the names of players on teams that didn't win because of the vague notion of what "valuable" is.

This makes no sense. Trout could only control his own play and did not deserve to be punished because of things that happened around him.

Trout received 19 of 30 first-place votes and finished in front of Betts 356-311. But almost no one would argue that he's not the best player in the game.

He led the AL with a .441 on-base percentage, 123 runs and 116 walks, but his name was dotted across the leaderboard in a 32-double, 29-homer, .991-OPS season.

Complete 2016 Awards coverage

Betts, who played on the AL East-champion Boston team, had a tremendous year and was the only player to finish in the top three on all 30 ballots.

In the National League, Bryant received 29 of 30 first-place votes for a season in which he fulfilled all the promise forecast for him with 35 doubles, 39 home runs and a .939 OPS.

Video: Bryant named the 2016 NL Most Valuable Player

But it probably was his defense at third that led to his landslide, since Murphy had one of the great offensive seasons in recent years: 47 doubles, 25 home runs, .985 OPS.

If there was real suspense, it was how high Seager, the NL Rookie of the Year, would finish in the MVP voting.

He was third, thanks to a 40-double, 26-home run season. From the moment he debuted late in the 2015 season, scouts have predicted he would soon be recognized as one of the 10 best players in the game.

He's right there after playing just 184 career games. As good as he is, he's probably not close to being as good as he's eventually going to be.

That's a familiar theme in baseball these days with waves of talent and youth. The kids are all right, and this MVP voting is the latest reminder.

The MLB Awards -- following league-specific recognition by BBWAA voters, whose ballots are based on regular-season play -- include candidates from both leagues (with postseason performance taken into consideration). MLB Awards are based on votes by retired players, broadcasters/reporters, team executives, Society of American Baseball Research members and fans, with each group accounting for 20 percent of the process. Esurance MLB Awards week concludes Friday on MLB Network and at 8 p.m. ET. MLB Awards categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.

Richard Justice is a columnist for You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.

Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout