Giancarlo Stanton’s head had been swimming in thoughts for days. There was the Most Valuable Player announcement on Thursday — would he prevail in what was widely perceived to be a tight voting race? — and the non-stop rumors of him possibly being traded by the Marlins.
“The thoughts were up and down,” Stanton acknowledged. “They were pretty bipolar of everything that’s going on, how this (the MVP) was going to turn out and what’s going to happen to my team and my teammates … and me.”
One question, at least, was resolved.
Stanton became the first player in Marlins history to win the National League MVP award, squeezing out one of the narrowest victories in MVP history, edging out Cincinnati’s Joey Votto by just two voting points for the coveted honor as his league’s top player.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The final tally in a scaled voting system: 302 points for Stanton, 300 for Votto. It was the fourth-closest MVP race ever, with Stanton’s power supremacy barely winning approval among the 30 voters for Votto’s gift for reaching base.
“I thought it was going to be close,” Stanton said.
Was it ever.
Stanton led the Majors in both home runs (59) and RBI (132). Stanton demolished the field in home runs the way Secretariat annihilated Sham, with 20 home runs separating him from his closest rival, Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger.
The last player to win the home run title by such a wide margin in the league standings was Babe Ruth in 1928.
But the Reds’ Votto was an on-base machine, reaching base at the absurd rate of nearly half the time (.454).
Voters were torn in every direction.
“I didn’t know what to think, really,” Stanton said.
Stanton became the third Miami pro sports figure to capture a league MVP title, joining Dan Marino and LeBron James.
“That’s definitely good company,” Stanton said. “I’m glad to be right next to them. One’s still going and being great and one is already Hall of Fame. It’s a very cool place to be.”
While Stanton has long been known for his Herculean power, one who knows few rivals when it comes to hitting the ball farther and harder than anyone else, it was his second-half home run tear that brought him even more attention.
Stanton had 26 homers at the 81-game midpoint. But then he erupted, belting 28 home runs during a torrid 48-game stretch from July 5 through Aug. 29. His 18 home runs in August equaled the major league record for that month, one that had stood for 80 years.
The performance capped one of the greatest individual seasons in Marlins history and confirmed his status as one of the majors’ premier players. It also removed some of the disappointment felt in 2014 when his MVP run was cut short with 17 games to play when he was hit in the face by a Mike Fiers pitch in Milwaukee.
Stanton didn’t return that season and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was voted N.L. MVP. Stanton ended up second in the voting.
“He was on his way to winning his first [MVP] in 2014,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “He was my MVP, hands-down, in 2014 before he got hit in the face.”
Alas, Stanton’s MVP award might be his final hurrah with the Marlins, who are listening to trade offers on the slugger. The Marlins plan to slash payroll under new ownership and the $295 million left on Stanton’s contract is a logical starting point.
“It’s an interesting feeling and situation for me,” Stanton said. “This is the only place I’ve known. But I also understand the business part of it, the direction that new ownership wants to go. They’re feeling it out. And we’re going to try to figure out a plan here.”
Stanton didn’t sound optimistic when asked about his future in Miami.
Asked if he would like to remain in South Florida if the Marlins addressed their pitching woes, Stanton replied: “Yes. But it needs to be thoroughly addressed and not just somewhat addressed. It needs to be a huge push now, and a definite ‘contending addressed’ matter.”
There have been no signs the Marlins intend to do that.
Stanton’s days as a Marlin are likely numbered. But with the MVP award now his, he can at least say — assuming he is traded — that he went out on top.
Stanton would be the first reigning MVP to be traded since Alex Rodriguez was traded from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees in 2003.