LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who survived a scare after being diagnosed with the coronavirus in July, was named the 2020 National League’s (NL) most valuable player (MVP) on Thursday.
Infielder Jose Abreu seized the American League (AL) MVP in the pandemic-shortened Major League Baseball season after powering the Chicago White Sox to their first postseason in a dozen years.
The 31-year-old Freeman, who has dual US-Canadian citizenship, grabbed the NL honors after batting .341 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 60 games. He received 28 of 30 first-place votes finishing well ahead of runner-up Mookie Betts of the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Oh my goodness, there are so many emotions right now,” Freeman said.
“Never did I ever think any of this could happen. My dad and I, we were just taking batting practice and having fun when I was a kid and look where we are now. It’s amazing.”
Freeman tested positive for COVID-19 before the start of the season and said it got so bad at one point when his fever spiked that he prayed to God, saying “Please don’t take me.”
He was diagnosed in early July but by the end of the month he was well enough to join his teammates. Still recovering, Freeman started the season slowly before finding his form about 15 games in.
“I got off to such a slow start trying to get my legs under me,” Freeman said.
“I just didn’t know when I was going to get my legs back. It was mentally draining because I wanted to play well early and it just didn’t happen.
“I got a couple of hits against the Blue Jays (on August 6) and started to feel good. Things kind of took off from there.”
Betts, 28, hit .292 with 16 homers and 39 RBIs in 55 games in his first season with the Dodgers after a trade with the Boston Red Sox. He won his fifth consecutive Gold Glove.
First baseman Abreu, 33, beat out the New York Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu and the Cleveland Indians’ Jose Ramirez.
The Cuban slugger received 21 first place votes, becoming the fourth player in AL history to lead the league in both hits (76) and RBIs (60).
Abreu is also the third Cuban-born player to win the MVP, joining Minnesota Twins’ Zoilo Versalles in 1965 and the Oakland Athletics’ Jose Canseco in 1988.
“My outlook is young; I am a young soul,” Abreu said. “(I was) in a position where I could spend time with young people, just to help them to improve and to carry them, but at the same time, just feed from their energy.
“And I was at peace with myself. I have been through a lot. I know how to treat people and I know how to take care of people. That is what I try to do every single day with these young guys we have.”
Shane Bieber finished fourth in MVP voting one day after he picked up the Cy Young award as the NL’s top pitcher.