CINCINNATI — About 30 seconds after Joey Votto got the news that he had finished second in the National League MVP vote, he stepped off the makeshift set at the Reds Hall of Fame and faced the local media.
Votto, the most articulate of players, was at the loss for words.
"Did you think you were going to this award?"
“No,” he said. "I didn’t. I thought there was a chance. This is almost to a T — not in, like I didn’t expect to win - but I expected it to be so close. I felt like I had a legitimate shot.
“It feels exactly kind of how I thought it would turn out with it being that close. It’s kind of . . . It’s a little bit of an experience having it that close and coming up short.”
Votto, the 2010 winner, finished two points behind Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth closest vote in the NL MVP history. The tally was 302 to 300. Each received 10 of the 30 first-place votes from baseball writers. Stanton got 10 seconds; Votto got nine.
After things sunk in, Votto decided “winning another one would have been cool, but I lost in a very, very cool fashion. I really liked this experience.”
Stanton had the number that really jumped out. He hit 59 home runs.
But Votto’s overall numbers were better. He led the NL in on-base percentage (.454), on-base plus slugging (1.032), games played (perfect 162) and walks (134).
He led the Major Leagues in times reaching base at 321, breaking his Reds team record of 319 set in 2015. He led the majors in walk-to-strikeout ratio at 1.61. No one was close -- Justin Turner of the Dodgers was next at 1.05.
And Votto became one of only three players ever to have at least 179 hits, 36 home runs, 134 walks and 83 or fewer strikeouts. The other two: Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Stanton’s counting numbers are better than anyone’s, including Votto’s. He scored 123 runs, drove in 132 and hit the 59 homers.
Stanton’s WAR (wins above replacement) was slightly better than Votto, 7.6 to 7.5. Votto, who studies these things, thought it came down to base-running.
“I would have led league in WAR in almost every version, but base-running crushed me,” Votto said. “We play in the toughest base-running ballpark in all of baseball. That doesn’t ever get mentioned.
"How am I supposed to go first to third or second to home on something? I’m always going to get stopped. Giancarlo gets the benefit of the doubt with a bigger ballpark, but I get smoked because of Great American.
“My career numbers are better on the road at home. Then I don’t get the benefit of the doubt from base-running. Not to say I’m a good base-runner. I’ve got a long way to go.”
Votto made it clear he wasn’t disappointed.
“I don't feel terribly disappointed, not really, because I think that it was just two very, very good seasons that went head-to-head. The subject was more individual performance than team wins,” he said. “Had the team won, had the Marlins won or the Reds won, this would have been near-unanimous.
“To me, this is just a pick 'em. People basically said we loved them both. That's something I'm grateful for. Giancarlo plays in a monster ballpark and hit all those home runs and I was cheering for him. I played every day and I felt like I put together a nice, well-rounded season.
“We did it from the beginning to the end. We both stayed healthy and I think the fans appreciated it. Disappointed, not really. Truly, more grateful.”
Votto’s near-miss comes seven years after he won his MVP. Someone said his skills at 33 haven’t diminished from what they were at 26.
“They’ve diminished for sure, but there are other parts of the game that you learn,” he said. “You grow and make adjustments. This is a subjective award. I've won one. I will say I'm biased. I put a little time into it. Most of the awards, whoever wins Most Valuable Player, I do hope they pick the right person and I feel on this occasion it was a tough choice.
“We very nearly shared the award, which I definitely would not have wanted. But because it's subjective, this doesn't take away from how I view my season. I thought it was a success individually and I was very proud of it. I feel the same way. It wouldn't have taken a plaque to feel any different about it.”