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.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.