BOSTON — The do-it-all star has at now done it all.
Two years after finishing runner-up in the American League’s Most Valuable Player race, Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts took the top honor on Thursday night, when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting was revealed.
The 26-year-old Betts becomes the first American League player to win an MVP award, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and a World Series title in the same season. Mike Schmidt is the only other player in either league’s history to do the same, in 1980.
Betts, the expected winner, finished with 28 out of 30 first-place votes, ahead of the Angels' Mike Trout, who had one first-place vote and finished second for a record fourth time and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez, who finished third. J.D. Martinez got the remaining first-place vote and finished in fourth place overall. The ballot was 10 places and voted on by 30 writers, two from each American League chapter.
Betts finished second in the MVP race to Trout in 2016, a year when Betts certainly had a case to win it all. The right fielder’s 2017 was a small step backward — but still incredibly productive — before making a huge leap forward this year, even beyond the ’16 level.
This season, Betts led the majors with a .346 average and .640 slugging percentage. He ranked second in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.078), and extra-base hits (84).
With 32 home runs and 30 steals, Betts became just the second player in team history to have a 30-30 season, following Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011. He also became the first player in history with a 30-30 year and a batting title in the same season (in either league).
Betts was the first Sox player to win an A.L. batting title since Bill Mueller in 2003 (.326), and the first Sox player to lead the majors in average since Wade Boggs in 1988 (.366).
No Sox player had led the majors in both average and slugging since Ted Williams in 1957.
The arrival of J.D. Martinez helped Betts tremendously. Betts reworked his swing with Martinez's help, and got off to a poor start in spring training.
"This whole season, hitting has been kind of that anxiety – you know, fear," Betts said during the season. “We all saw how I started in spring training, and I was trying to learn something new. I was like, 'Phew, I don't know, this may be my end.’”
Betts laughed during that interview. But he was in fact hitless through his first 16 at-bats in spring training, which can feel like an eternity when trying something new. On March 16, after hitting safely in five straight games, Betts was still batting just .179.
"It was bad," he said. "I was actually really scared. Luckily, I was able to use my abilities that God gave me at picking up on things and kind of adapting. You give me a little something, I'll work it and kind of make it my own within that structure. Seemed to work so far."
The award was the only major moment left in the annals of 2018, a fitting ribbon tied to an amazing season not only for the Red Sox, but for Betts, who recently welcomed his first child, as the baseball world now turns its attention to the hot stove and the future.
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