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 Souza Jr. injured his left knee

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Almost exactly a year ago, Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza Jr. tore a bicep while diving for a ball in a spring training game. He’d play in only 72 games last year but he really wasn’t healthy for any of them, with the injury and aggravations to it costing him production and causing him pain.

When he started spring training this year he said he’d take it easier in games that didn’t count so he could be ready for the regular season. Sadly, he was once again injured on the eve of Opening Day, crumbling to the ground after injuring his knee while scoring on a double in an exhibition game against the White Sox (video here if you want to see it).

The injury looked bad — he was in obvious pain and could not put any weight on the leg while being helped off the field. He’s undergoing an MRI today and we’ll hear more soon, but it does not look good.

Assuming Souza is out for an extended period, Adam Jones will likely be the Dbacks’ everyday right fielder.