NL MVP goes to Freddie Freeman, not Dodgers' Mookie Betts

Jorge Castillo
·3 min read
Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (50) chases an rbi ground rule double hit by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) during seventh inning action in game two of the NLCS at Globe Life Field. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts chases a fly ball during the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts’ first season as a Dodger ended with a World Series title, a Gold Glove Award, and Silver Slugger, but it won’t include the Most Valuable Player Award.

Betts fell just short of being named National League MVP on Thursday, finishing second to Atlanta Braves first baseman and Orange El Modena High graduate Freddie Freeman. San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado was third.

Freeman received 28 of the 30 first-place votes. Betts got the other two first-place votes and 21 second-place votes. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager finished in ninth place in the voting, which concluded before the start of the postseason. Seager went on to become the eighth player to win the League Championship Series and World Series MVP awards in the same season.

Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu won the American League MVP award, beating out Cleveland Indians third baseman José Ramirez and New York Yankees second basemen DJ LeMahieu. Angels center fielder Mike Trout wound up fifth, the lowest he’s finished in the voting since his first full major-league season in 2012.

This is the first year that first basemen have won the award in both leagues since Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard in 2006. It’s just the third time first basemen have taken the honor in both leagues.

It would’ve been Betts’ second career MVP; he won the award in the American League as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Frank Robinson remains the only player in MLB history to win the award in both leagues.

Betts consistently showcased his five-tool skill set over the shortened season before shining in October. He served as the Dodgers’ engine atop the lineup. He was one of baseball’s best defenders in right field, was a dynamo on the basepaths, and quickly became a clubhouse leader.

He batted .292 with 16 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and a .927 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 55 games. His 3.4 bWAR — Baseball Reference’s WAR calculation — ranked first in the majors. He then hit .296 with two home runs, eight doubles, and an .871 OPS to complement his elite defense and baserunning in 18 postseason games.

The Dodgers envisioned that kind of output when they acquired Betts from the Red Sox in February and signed him to a 12-year, $365-million contract extension the day before opening day.

Freeman, meanwhile, has been a franchise cornerstone in Atlanta since breaking into the majors in 2010, but his 10th full season appeared in jeopardy in July.

The 30-year-old tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of summer camp. He suffered severe symptoms, including body aches, headaches, chills, and a fever that spiked to 104.5. He returned to summer camp less than a week before opening day and didn’t skip a beat.

Freeman finished second in the National League in batting average (.341), OPS (1.102), first in doubles (23), and third in walks (45). He clubbed 13 home runs with 53 RBI. His 3.4 fWAR — FanGraphs’ WAR calculation — was tied for first in the majors with Ramirez.

The Braves won the National League East title for the second straight season before losing to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series in seven games.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.