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Mookie Betts a finalist for NL MVP; Mike Trout excluded as an AL finalist

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts hustles to second base for a double in Game 5 of the World Series.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts helped lead the Dodgers to their first World Series title in 32 years. Now there’s a chance he’ll take home baseball’s highest individual honor.

Betts was named one of three finalists for the National League most valuable player award Monday. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado are the two others.

In the American League, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was not a finalist, only the second time in the last nine years he hasn’t been among the top three vote-getters. Trout finished fourth in 2017. He won the award in 2019, 2016 and 2014. The finalists this year are Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez and DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees.

The winners will be announced Nov. 12.

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Jaime Jarrín, the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame Spanish-language announcer, called the 2020 World Series from a darkened Dodger Stadium, yet he found it fulfilling.

Betts batted .292 with 16 home runs and a .927 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 55 games while supplying elite defense and baserunning. He began the season flipping between first and second in the batting order until he became the everyday leadoff hitter — the spot where he said he feels most comfortable — in mid-August and thrived.

But his impact stretched beyond the field. Dodgers teammates raved about Betts’ work ethic and leadership qualities. They pointed to his five-minute speech in spring training, just a week into his time with the team, as a galvanizing moment. Austin Barnes credited Betts with helping him improve as a hitter. He seamlessly fit into a veteran, star-laden clubhouse even before signing a 12-year, $365-million contract extension shortly before opening day.

“Mookie’s unbelievable,” left-hander Clayton Kershaw said after the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 to win the World Series. “Incredible baseball player. Does everything so well that everybody talks about [it]. But I think that he strives to be perfect, strives to be excellent every single time out there and that focus and that consistency, I don’t know how much better it made other guys in this clubhouse, but I know it did.”

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If Betts wins, he would join Frank Robinson as the only players to win the MVP award in both leagues. Robinson was named NL MVP with the Cincinnati Reds in 1961. He won AL MVP with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 after Cincinnati traded him during the offseason.

Like Robinson, Betts could win his second MVP award in his first season in the other league after being traded. The right fielder won AL MVP with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, the same year Boston beat the Dodgers to win the World Series, and was traded to Los Angeles in February.

Fernando Valenzuela’s enduring legacy with the Dodgers, Latino fans and Julio Urías motivated the pitcher to do all he could to win the World Series.

He is guaranteed to finish in the top three in MVP voting for the third time in five years. He finished in sixth and eighth place the other two seasons.

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No other member of the Dodgers was named a finalist for an award, but three former Dodgers pitchers were named finalists for the Cy Young. Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda are finalists in the AL. Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish is a finalist in the NL.

Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who led the Miami Marlins to a playoff berth despite a significant COVID-19 outbreak, is a finalist for NL manager of the year. The late Hall of Fame pitchers Dizzy Dean and Don Drysdale are candidates for the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, along with Fox’s Joe Buck, ESPN’s Dan Shulman and NBC’s Al Michaels.


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