NEW YORK — Detroit’s Justin Verlander stymied the Toronto Blue Jays with a no-hitter in May. He shut them out again Monday by becoming the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century voted Most Valuable Player.
Verlander earned the American League MVP honour after receiving 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in results announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“Obviously pitchers are not just written off all of a sudden because they’re pitchers,” Verlander said.
Boston centre-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was second in voting with four firsts and 242 points, followed by Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista with five firsts and 231 points. Bautista led the major leagues in home runs (43), walks (132), slugging percentage (.608) and on-base plus slugging (1.056) to become the first player since Barry Bonds in 2001 to lead in four offensive categories. He also batted .302 with 132 RBIs.
The Blue Jays outfielder received a top-10 vote on ever ballot, but was ranked as low as ninth by one writer. Verlander added the MVP to the Cy Young Award he won last week.
“Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of this,” he said. “I want to say this is a dream come true. I can’t say that because my dream had already had come true … to win a Cy Young. And the next dream is to win a World Series. This wasn’t even on my radar until the talk started. And then all of a sudden it was a this-could-actually-happen type of thing.”
Verlander won the AL’s pitching triple crown, going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, the most wins in the major leagues since Oakland’s Bob Welch went 27-6 in 1990. Verlander pitched his second career no-hitter at Rogers Centre in Toronto on May 7.
Last week, he was a unanimous Cy Young winner. On Monday, he became the first pitcher voted MVP since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher since Boston’s Roger Clemens in 1986.
“I think that a starting pitcher has to do something special to be as valuable or more so than a position player,” Verlander said. “Obviously, having the chance to play in 160-some games in the case of Miguel, they can obviously have a huge impact every day. That’s why, I’ve talked about on my day, on a pitcher’s day, the impact we have is tremendous on that game. So you have to have a great impact almost every time out to supersede (position players) and it happens on rare occasions, and I guess this year was one of those years.”
The 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, Verlander joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Don Newcombe as the only players to win all three major awards in their careers.
“I think this set a precedent,” Verlander said. “I’m happy that the voters acknowledged that, that we do have a major impact in this game and we can be extremely valuable to our team and its success.”
Verlander appeared on only 27 ballots and was omitted by Jim Ingraham of The Herald-News in Ohio, who voted Bautista first. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted Verlander eighth.
Ingraham doesn’t think pitchers should be eligible for MVP.
“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year,” Ingraham said. “He hasn’t appeared in 79 per cent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 per cent of his team’s games in a year.
“Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 per cent? So that’s part of it. Another part of it is I think they’re apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there’s a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn’t, I don’t think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games.”
Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Newcombe (1956), Los Angeles’ Sandy Koufax (1963), St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968), Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971), Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers (1981) and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez (1984).
Since Mickey Cochrane (1934), Hank Greenberg (1935, 1940) and Charley Gehringer (1937), all Tigers voted MVP have been pitchers, with Verlander joining Hal Newhouser (1944 and 1945), McLain and Hernandez.
While Verlander earned a US$500,000 bonus for winning the Cy Young, he didn’t have an MVP bonus provision. Tampa’s Evan Longoria receives $25,000 for finishing 10th.
The NL MVP winner will be announced Tuesday.
Before learning he won, Verlander had given up hope.
Last week, he was told he had won the Cy Young at about 12:40 p.m. He watched the clock Monday.
“I figured somebody else got the call,” Verlander said.
Then Brian Britten, the Tigers’ director of baseball media relations, called at 12:56 p.m., about one hour before the announcement.
“It was just a weight off my shoulders,” Verlander said, “and pure elation, really.”