Betts named Red Sox MVP, strives to improve

Outfielder unfazed by increased expectations

Betts named Red Sox MVP, strives to improve

BOSTON -- After an emphatic breakout season in which he finished second to Mike Trout in the race for the American League's Most Valuable Player, Mookie Betts could be under a microscope in 2017.

And this is where his low-key, hard-working demeanor serves him best.

"Obviously, I want to win [the MVP] at some point, but I think I want to win a World Series more," Betts said.

Betts, who was recognized at Thursday's Boston Baseball Writers Dinner as the Red Sox MVP in 2016, has an uncanny ability for a 24-year-old to ignore the noise.

"Just try not to be better," said Betts. "Try to be the same guy. I think when people try to be better, that's when things get worse. If I can do anything similar to what I did last year, I'll be pretty happy."

Betts finishes second for AL MVP

Talk to anyone who knows Betts, and they'll tell you he absolutely wants to get better. But he will do it in his own understated way.

"What Mookie has shown us is that he's probably as genuine a person or player as you will see and he has handled the initial coming to the Major Leagues and the subsequent success all in stride," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "His inquisitive self never seems to go away. You don't ever see him becoming complacent.

"He's always wanting to learn. He's always got a high standard for himself and I don't think he focuses on what the end numbers are. He just worries about performing to the best of his abilities today."

From across the field, Indians manager Terry Francona has already gained great respect for the abilities of Betts.

"Before we played Boston in the playoffs, everyone was like, 'Are you going to walk [David Ortiz]? I was like, 'Do you see who's hitting behind him?' He's so good," said Francona. "He does everything. He's young, but he hits the ball out of the ballpark, he runs the bases. He's a good hitter.

"You can throw him a ball six inches off the plate and he hits it for a home run and he keeps it fair. You've just got to hope he's not hot when you're facing him because he'll kill you."

Farrell is the one fortunate enough to write Betts into his lineup just about every day.

"I think there are certain people that, naturally, they are successful people, and he exhibits those qualities," Farrell said.

With Ortiz now retired, Betts could be relied on in other ways besides his on-field heroics.

"I have no idea what it may be like because I've never done it. You just kind of guess and know that obviously you're losing a leader," Betts said. "It's going to take more than one person to pick that up. We all collectively have to try and pick up where he left off. I think if we know that it's going to take a group effort, it's going to be all right."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.