Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout was good enough for long enough to capture his third American League Most Valuable Player award, edging Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman in a tight, two-man race.
Trout, the pride of Millville, N.J., captured his third MVP award on Thursday night by collecting 17 first-place votes and 13 second-place nods from the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Bregman’s support from the writers was a mirror image of Trout’s with 13 first-place votes and 17 second-place votes.
“It’s definitely pretty surreal,” Trout said on a conference call from Iowa, where he is on a hunting trip with his father Jeff, brother Tyler and several friends.
Just 28, Trout is steadily building his case as one of the best players in baseball history, swing after swing, series after series, season after season. He is just the 11th player to win three MVP awards and the second youngest behind St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial.
Trout, who graduated from Millville High in 2009, is an eight-time all-star. He has finished first or second in the MVP voting seven times. The exception was 2017, when Trout played just 114 games because of injury.
"Just to be mentioned with some of the all-time greats, it means a lot,” Trout said.
Trout’s 2019 season ended in early September because of a foot injury. His absence over the season’s final three weeks, combined with another losing record for the perpetually underachieving Angels, led to speculation that Bregman might seize the award.
“It was killing me not to be able to play,” Trout said of the season’s stretch run.
Trout batted .291 and led the league in on-base-percentage (.438) and slugging percentage (.645). He hit a career-high 45 home runs with 110 walks in 134 games.
Bregman slashed .296/.423/.592, hit 41 homers and walked a league-high 119 times for the 107-win Astros.
Trout said his 2019 season was his best.
“I felt the most consistent at the plate,” Trout said.
A lifelong Eagles fan and season-ticket holder, Trout said he would miss Sunday’s showdown with the New England Patriots because of the hunting trip.
“We need a win Sunday,” Trout said. “We’ve got a couple tough games coming up. Got a tough one this week with (Tom) Brady.”
Last season was a trying one for Trout and the Angels. The team went 72-90 and fired manager Brad Ausmus and the entire organization was shaken when pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room July 1 during a road trip to play the Texas Rangers.
“Losing a teammate, losing a best friend,” Trout said of Skaggs’ death. “It was the toughest year. I just tried to come to the ballpark and step up as a leader. I felt like it was my time.”
For Trout, optimism for a better future for the Angels seems as much a part of his off-season routine as appearing on MLB Network as an MVP finalist. In his career, the Angels have made the playoffs just once, losing the 2014 division series to Kansas City in three games.
This year is no different, as Trout said he was excited about the hiring of new Angels manager Joe Maddon and confident the Angels would make a splash in the free-agent market.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about him,” Trout said of Maddon. “Looking forward to getting it going.”