NEW YORK (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. had been waiting for this moment.
“From the day I got to the league right away I always knew I wanted to be the MVP,” the Atlanta Braves right fielder said through a translator. “It’s always been a dream of mine and I’m living the dream come true.”
Acuña was a unanimous winner of his first National League Most Valuable Player award on Thursday, taking home the honor after becoming the first big leaguer with 40 homers and 70 stolen bases in a season.
Could he do it again, or even become the first 50-50 player?
“I’m not trying to predict anything, but as long as I’m healthy I believe anything is possible.” he said.
Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani won the American League award, becoming the first two-time unanimous MVP. There have been 21 unanimous winners, and this year marked the first time two occurred in the same year.
Acuña received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Mookie Betts got all 30 second-place votes and 270 points, followed by Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Freddie Freeman with 227 points. Betts earned the 2018 AL MVP award with Boston, and Freeman was the 2020 NL MVP with Atlanta.
Acuña was second in the NL with a .336 batting average and led the major leagues with 149 runs, 217 hits, 386 total bases and 73 stolen bases while hitting 41 home runs with 106 RBIs. A four-time All-Star who turns 26 next month, Acuña helped Atlanta to a major league-best 104 wins before the Braves lost to Philadelphia in an NL Division Series.
He set his career best for RBIs and matched his 2019 high for home runs.
Acuña learned of the award while in the clubhouse of La Guaria, his team in Venezuela’s winter league. While he dropped off a scheduled national call with BBWAA members, he spoke on a Zoom with Atlanta reporters.
He was on a possible MVP track in 2021 with 24 homers, 52 RBIs and 17 steals in 82 games before he tore his right ACL on July 10 while attempting a catch on the warning track, an injury that ended his season.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to bounce back after I was hurt,” he said. “There was some doubt I could do what I was able to accomplish.”
Betts batted .307 with 39 homers and 107 RBIs, and Freeman hit .331 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs.
Atlanta’s Matt Olson was fourth with 223 points, and Arizona’s Corbin Carroll, who won NL Rookie of the Year, was fifth with 165.
By finishing fifth, Carroll earned $5 million. He gets a $2.5 million increase to $30.5 million for both his 2029 and ’30 salaries and also of his 2031 option, which includes a $5 million buyout. His contract, agreed to in March, originally guaranteed $111 million over eight seasons.
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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