Mike Trout and Kris Bryant were born 150 days apart and, relatively speaking, not that many days ago. Both of them played the 2016 season at age 24. But their inherent youth hasn't stopped them from making history on the field of play and, on Thursday night, in the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Most Valuable Player Awards unveiling.
The Angels' Trout is now a two-time American League MVP, with the rest of his first five full seasons also well-represented by three second-place finishes. No player has ever had a career start with that much acclaim. And the Angels finishing 21 games out of first place in the AL West didn't stop Trout from finishing first in the AL MVP.
And the Cubs' Bryant followed his unanimous selection as last year's National League Rookie of the Year in fitting fashion with a near-unanimous selection as the NL MVP, with 29 of 30 voters putting him in first place. Only three other players -- Cal Ripken Jr., Ryan Howard and Dustin Pedroia -- began their careers with the rookie award and the MVP award in sweet succession, though two others (Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki) did win them simultaneously.
The MLB Awards -- following league-specific recognition by BBWAA voters, whose ballots are based on regular-season play -- include candidates from both leagues (with postseason performance taken into consideration). MLB Awards are based on votes by retired players, broadcasters/reporters, team executives, Society of American Baseball Research members and fans, with each group accounting for 20 percent of the process. Esurance MLB Awards week concludes tonight on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET. MLB Awards categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.
But what's really special is what Trout and Bryant accomplished together. This marked the first time in history that both MVPs were 24 or younger (Trout didn't turn 25 until August, so 2016 qualifies as his age-24 season).
"It means a lot to the game," Trout said. "There's a bunch of young guys in the league that are making the game good for the fans and exciting. It's great for baseball."
The Cubs were the best team in baseball, steamrolling the NL Central with 103 wins en route to the franchise's first World Series title in 108 years. So it was no surprise to see one of their own honored.
Bryant became the ninth Cub and the first since Sammy Sosa in 1998 to win the MVP. Bryant beat out fellow finalists Daniel Murphy of the Nationals and Corey Seager of the Dodgers. Bryant led the Cubs in home runs (39), runs (121), hits (176) and OPS (.939) while leading the NL in Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement calculation (8.4). His versatility had tremendous value, as he became the first player in history to win the MVP in a season in which he started games at four different defensive positions (third base, left field, right field and first base).
The only first-place MVP vote that didn't go to Bryant went to Murphy. Bryant would have been the first player in history to win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP awards unanimously. He'll have to "settle" for being the first player ever to win, in succession, the Golden Spikes Award, the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award, the Rookie of the Year honor and the MVP.
Oh, and he mixed in that World Series title, too.
"It's all downhill from here," Bryant joked. "I look forward to really enjoying this this whole offseason. I don't know if this whole year will ever happen again."
Bryant finished with 415 points in the MVP vote, with Murphy finishing second at 245 and Seager at 240. Bryant's teammate, Anthony Rizzo, finished fourth in the voting (202 points), and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado (199), the Braves' Freddie Freeman (129), the Reds' Joey Votto (100), the Mets' Yoenis Cespedes (45), the Dodgers' Justin Turner and the Nationals' Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (39) rounded out the top 10. Bryant, Murphy, Seager, Rizzo and Arenado were the only players listed on all ballots.
Far more intrigue resided in the AL, where it was an open question whether the voters would side with Trout by virtue of his astounding individual numbers or defer to Boston's Mookie Betts out of respect to his impact on a division winner.
Trout's Angels won just 74 games, and that "stat" was the only real knock on his candidacy. He led the Majors in runs scored (123), walks (116), on-base percentage (.441) and WAR (9.4). He finished second in the AL in OPS (.991) and tied for second in steals (30).
Entering the announcement on MLB Network, Trout didn't know what to expect. The surprise when he won registered in his reaction.
"At the end of the season, a lot of people were asking me, 'If your team has a losing record, is it going to hurt you in the MVP?'" Trout said. "With this MVP, I guess it doesn't matter."
Nineteen voters were unaffected by the standings, and they allowed Trout to become the first member of a non-postseason entrant to win the AL MVP since Alex Rodriguez (Rangers) in 2003.
Trout, a five-time All-Star who also won the AL Rookie of the Year prize in 2012, is now the sixth player to win two MVPs before his age-25 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, along with Johnny Bench, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and Hal Newhouser. He joins Barry Bonds as the only players to finish first or second in the MVP voting in five consecutive seasons. Bonds finished second to teammate Jeff Kent in 2000 then rattled off four straight NL MVPs from 2001-04.
"It humbles you, it's an unbelievable honor," Trout said. "Just a little bit ago, I was a little kid in high school. Now the chance to win a second MVP, it means a lot to me and my family."
To claim his second MVP, Trout had to beat out Betts, who garnered nine first-place votes and 311 points to Trout's 356. Betts tied his teammate Pedroia for second in the AL in batting average (.318) and was second in hits (214), tied for third in doubles (42) and fourth in RBIs (113). He trailed only Trout in WAR (7.8), and there was some thought that playing for the AL East champs might push Betts ahead of Trout in the voting.
Ortiz, whose Major League-leading 1.021 OPS finished his career with a flourish, joined Beltre as the only players not named Trout or Betts to receive a first-place vote. They received one apiece.
But Trout and Bryant were the story. This was a night in which youth was served.
"We've got some older guys going out like David Ortiz," said Bryant, "and it's up to us to fill their shoes."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.