CHICAGO -- What's next for the Cubs' Kris Bryant? He continued his meteoric rise, winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award, announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Thursday.
Bryant is the first player to win the Golden Spikes Award presented to the top collegiate player, the Minor League Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year and the MVP honors in four consecutive seasons. Bryant joked that "it's all downhill from there," but he'll be back in his dad's batting cage soon.
Bryant, 24, received 29 of 30 first-place votes in the balloting by the BBWAA, with the Nationals' Daniel Murphy getting the other first-place vote.
Twenty players have won the top rookie honors and been named MVP, but Bryant joins Dustin Pedroia (2007-08), Ryan Howard (2005-06) and Cal Ripken Jr. (1982-83) as the only players to win the awards in back-to-back seasons. A Cubs player has won the award 10 times, including twice by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks; Sammy Sosa had been the last to do so in 1998.
The Angels' Mike Trout, 25, won the American League MVP, marking the third time both MVPs were 25 or younger. The other two cases were Steve Garvey (25) and Jeff Burroughs (23) in 1974, and Hank Aaron (23) and Mickey Mantle (25) in 1957.
Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo finished fourth in the MVP balloting with 202 points. Bryant and Rizzo finished 1-2 on three of the BBWAA ballots, and Rizzo tweeted congrats to his teammate: "MVP!!! @KrisBryant_23 Couldn't be happier for you! #Grinderrrrrs #NoCupCakes"
Bryant and Rizzo -- also known as "Bryzzo" to fans of the World Series champion Cubs -- exchanged text messages on Thursday.
"If it wasn't for Anthony and his protection and guidance, I wouldn't have won this award," Bryant said. "He texted me and I said the same thing to him -- I said, 'If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have been able to do this.'"
Bryant got the news while in his father Mike's batting cage, and he was joined by his fiancé, Jessica Delp, during the broadcast on MLB Network. Cubs fans have been sending the couple wedding gifts, which Bryant said is a little overwhelming. Bryant and Delp will be married in January.
His humble nature plus his performance on the field makes Bryant a big hit with Cubs fans.
"I feel like good guys finish first, so me going out there and being humble and just being a good role model for kids is something I strive to do more than putting up good numbers on the field or individual goals," Bryant said. "I don't want to be that person who people look at and say, 'He's too cocky,' or any of that. I just want to do my job and put smiles on people's faces. This year was the perfect way to illustrate that."
Bryant batted .292 with 39 homers, 35 doubles, 102 RBIs and 121 runs scored in 155 games. He led the NL in runs scored, ranked third in homers, was fourth with a .939 OPS and a .554 slugging percentage, and sixth in RBIs. He was the only player in the Majors with at least 35 homers, 35 doubles, 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored and 75 walks. Bryant also led the NL with an 8.3 WAR, the highest mark by a Cub since Sosa's 9.2 WAR in 2001.
In Game 7 of the World Series, Bryant assisted on the final out of the game, scooping up Michael Martinez's grounder and throwing to Rizzo. Bryant's foot slipped on the play, which he said now was a little scary. But he made it, and the Cubs celebrated their first World Series championship since 1908. Since then, Bryant has been part of a parade through Chicago, appeared on late night television shows, and received a congratulatory text message from former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.
What is next?
"I obviously want to continue to get better and win more World Series," he said. "This year has certainly been one of the best years of my life, winning the World Series and now this is just icing on the cake. I look forward to enjoying this and the offseason. I don't know if this whole year will ever happen again."
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 Friday on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET. MLB Awards categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.