MLB award season came to a close Thursday with first basemen Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman—both first-time MVPs—claiming top honors in their respective leagues. American League voters struck it out of the park by selecting Abreu, a deserving winner if there ever was one. The 33-year-old from Cuba delivered a smooth .317/.370/.617 batting line while pacing the majors with 60 RBI, one for each game he played in 2020. Abreu’s offensive prowess was a huge factor in Chicago earning its first playoff berth in over a decade (2008).
In defeating runner-up Jose Ramirez, Abreu becomes the first White Sox to achieve MVP status since Frank Thomas in 1994. Coincidentally, 1994 was also an abbreviated season due to a lengthy players’ strike that stretched into the following year. Yankees veteran DJ LeMahieu nabbed third in this year’s voting, a slight improvement on last year’s fourth-place finish. Among the most coveted talents in an admittedly thin free-agent class, LeMahieu is one of just a handful of players to win batting titles in both leagues.
Ramirez, who was also an AL finalist in 2017 and 2018 (he finished third both years), got off to an excruciating start for the Tribe but found his groove late, finishing strong with a dominant September (.366, 10 HR, 24 RBI). Ramirez’s Cleveland teammate, Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, took fourth with last year’s MVP, Mike Trout, rounding out the AL’s top five.
Freeman, who missed a portion of Atlanta’s preseason “summer camp” while battling COVID symptoms, was a runaway winner in the NL, trouncing fellow finalists Mookie Betts (who was hoping to join Frank Robinson as only the second player to achieve MVP recognition in both leagues) and Manny Machado of the Padres. The four-time All-Star received 28 of 30 first-place votes with the other two going to Betts.
The left-handed-hitting Freeman did it all in 2020, leading MLB in both doubles (23) and runs scored (51) for the NL East champs. Though voters turned in their ballots before the postseason, Freeman was also a key contributor in October, lifting the Braves with a walk-off single in their playoff opener while helping Atlanta advance to its first NLCS since 2001. Prior to Freeman, the last Brave to win NL MVP was Chipper Jones (enshrined in Cooperstown as a first-ballot Hall of Famer two years ago) back in 1999.
Betts had to settle for silver in the NL MVP race, but he still took home plenty of hardware by winning a fifth Gold Glove in right field and a third straight Silver Slugger. He also has a Dodgers World Series ring coming his way. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto finished fourth and fifth respectively in the voting. This is the first time since 2006 that first basemen were awarded MVP in both leagues. Justin Morneau of the Twins and Phillies slugger Ryan Howard were the two recipients that year.