The television cameras had invaded the Bellinger home, along with floodlights, and the technicians that operated them. Cody Bellinger sat alone in the family room, on a stool that had been placed in front of a couch. He was not smiling, at least not in the five-second video clip his mother posted on Instagram.
“Waiting for the announcement …” she wrote as the caption.
There was no suspense in the announcement, yet there were a family’s worth of smiles. With his parents, siblings, grandparents and uncles gathered around him, the Dodgers first baseman was honored Monday as unanimous winner for National League rookie of year.
“We had some snacks here,” Bellinger said. “It was like a little Super Bowl party, but for the rookie of the year.”
Bellinger hit 39 home runs, breaking the previous National League rookie record of 38 set by Wally Berger with the Boston Braves in 1930 and matched by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. Bellinger batted .267, and his .933 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) ranked among the league’s top 10.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was the unanimous winner last year. The Dodgers have won the award 18 times, more than twice as many as any other franchise. The award since has been renamed in honor of its first winner, Dodgers Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
The American League winner was Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, also unanimously. Judge set an American League rookie record by hitting 52 home runs, and he beat Bellinger in the semifinals of the All-Star game’s home run derby.
Bellinger called Judge “a humble dude.” He said the power the two displayed this season — and the long-ball show the Dodgers and Houston Astros put on in the World Series — made for a new and fun way to play ball.
“There were people showing emotion now, and learning to hit the long ball at a young age,” Bellinger said. “It’s starting to take off, and I’m a big fan of it.”
Bellinger batted second on opening day — at triple-A Oklahoma City, that is. He got three hits in his first game, 10 in his first five.
He was 21, and the Dodgers had five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Bellinger said he hoped he might be a September call-up.
The Dodgers won 104 games, the most in the major leagues this year and the most by any Dodgers team in 64 years. But they were 9-11 when they promoted Bellinger on April 25 — as an outfielder, following injuries to Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson.
Injuries to Gonzalez soon opened a spot for Bellinger at his natural position. The Dodgers went 89-38 in the games Bellinger started, a .701 winning percentage.
Judge is one of three finalists for American League most valuable player; Bellinger is not one of the finalists for the National League award.
None of the three National League finalists came from a division champion, and two came from teams with losing records: Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a league-high 59 home runs for the Miami Marlins; and Joey Votto, who led the league with a 1.032 OPS for the Cincinnati Reds. The other: Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, winners of a wild-card berth.
The Dodgers advanced to the World Series, but Bellinger batted .143 with one home run and 17 strikeouts in 28 at-bats. He set records for most strikeouts in the World Series, and for most strikeouts in the postseason.
“The World Series was pretty exhausting,” he said.
He said the result had left a sour taste in his mouth, and in the mouths of his teammates. He already is focused on the 2018 season, and on the offseason workouts he said he had started Monday.
"Us and the Astros are a month behind everyone else,” he said.
And, after the various rounds of interviews were finished, he posted his own picture on Instagram — sitting on the stool, in front of the couch, wearing a huge smile.