Joey Votto named NL MVP with 31 of 32 first-place votes

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Leading the league in OPS and leading the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 1995 has earned Joey Votto the National League MVP award, as the 26-year-old first baseman easily topped Albert Pujols and Carlos Gonzalez by receiving 31 of the 32 first-place votes cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

I wrote this morning that Votto and Pujols should share the award, as their individual performances were nearly identical, but Votto actually winning the MVP was expected. His being atop all but one ballot comes as a surprise, but BBWAA voters have always placed a great deal of emphasis on team success and Votto and the Reds beat Pujols and the Cardinals by five games to win the NL Central.

Beyond that, BBWAA voters also tend to lean toward good stories whenever possible, and for better or worse Votto emerging as a superstar in his third full season was certainly a bigger story than Pujols’ 10th straight MVP-caliber campaign, particularly after he won the award in each of the past two years. In addition to his three MVPs, this is the fourth time Pujols has finished runner-up.

Carlos Gonzalez finished third, followed by Adrian Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Roy Halladay was the top pitcher at No. 6 and the Cy Young winner received one second-place vote. For the complete voting totals, see the BBWAA’s official website.

Votto led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage while also ranking among the NL’s top three in batting average, homers, and RBIs. He also took his game to another level in high-leverage spots, batting .369 with a 1.129 OPS with runners in scoring position and .370 with a 1.138 OPS in “close and late” situations. He joins Larry Walker and Justin Morneau as the third Canadian-born MVP and is the first Reds player to win the award since Barry Larkin in 1995.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.