Ronald Acuna Jr. is the unanimous choice…
The 25-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player, an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, has been named the Most Valuable Player of Major League Baseball’s National League, in unanimous fashion no less.
Acuna and Ohtani’s unanimous wins are historic, since it’s an unprecedented occurrence in the 92-year history of the award.
Acuna beat out Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who came in second on all 30 ballots.
A force at the leadoff spot for a fearsome Braves lineup, Acuna combined 41 home runs with an NL-leading 73 stolen bases, easily becoming the first ever member of the 40-70 club.
He also led the NL in on-base percentage (.416), OPS (1.012), hits (217) and runs scored (149). His .337 batting average trailed only Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez (.354) for the major league lead.
Acuna did not attend his scheduled conference call with BBWAA members because he debuted for the Tiburones de La Guaira of the Venezuelan winter league shortly after claiming the award. The game was pushed back an hour to accommodate the announcement.
Acuna won the NL Rookie of the Year Award during his age-20 season in 2018 — Ohtani won the AL version that year — and finished fifth in NL MVP voting during his age-21 season in 2019, clearly establishing himself as one of the most dynamic forces in the sport. But he suffered a torn ACL in the middle of the 2021 season, forcing him to merely watch from the dugout while his Braves teammates won a championship later that fall. The following year, he was admittedly not himself. The explosiveness that helped elevate him to stardom was lacking. His timing in the batter’s box was off.
Acuna spent the ensuing offseason working diligently on his conditioning and trained with Fernando Tatis Sr., father of his good friend Fernando Tatis Jr., on slightly lowering his hands to lessen some of the moving parts in his swing and get his bat through the zone more quickly. Through six months of baseball’s regular season, Acuna’s OPS never fell below .900.
Acuna’s stolen-base total was aided by new rules that introduced a pitch clock, increased the size of bases and limited the number of pitcher disengagements, but he hit 13 more home runs than the next-closest player ever to 70 stolen bases and stole 27 more bases than the next-closest player ever to 40 home runs.
“I don’t know what to say — just super excited, happy,” Acuna, surrounded by family and friends in his native Venezuela, told MLB Network in Spanish. “Hopefully, by the grace of God, I can have an even better year next year than the one I just had.”