Verlander is the Sporting News' top player

Verlander is the Sporting News' top player

Verlander is the Sporting News' top player
DETROIT -- Strike one blow in Justin Verlander's favor for his American League MVP chances. And impressively, his first nod came from his fellow Major League players.

The crowning honor of the Sporting News' end-of-season honors, the Player of the Year award, went to Verlander. In balloting conducted among 289 players, Verlander beat out former Tiger Curtis Granderson in a close race, becoming the first pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1988 to win the award.

It was the first Player of the Year award announced among the major media, and it might not be the only one Verlander wins. The MLB Players Choice awards will be announced next Thursday night on MLB Network, and Verlander is one of three finalists for their Player of the Year honor. With that award also decided by player balloting, Verlander now seems like the favorite to win.

The last of the honors, and the brightest, comes with the AL MVP Award announcement on Nov. 21. Twenty-eight members of the Baseball Writers Association of America -- two in each AL city -- voted on that award at the end of the regular season. The big question among them will be how many are opposed to voting for a pitcher for MVP honors. Since each voter makes out a top-10 ballot, second- and third-place votes can be critical for a player among voters who don't deem them the top candidate.

Voting for the Sporting News honor was very divided. Verlander received 67 votes, just 10 more than Granderson, with Matt Kemp close behind at 41. Jose Bautista and Ryan Braun received 25 votes apiece.

The players' willingness to consider Verlander as an MVP candidate includes Bautista, who was asked about it earlier this week when he received the Hank Aaron Award as the AL's best hitter.

"As the rules pertain, he's eligible right now," Bautista told reporters during his press conference Monday night. "It's one of those things where he had such an amazing year that he's in line for the Cy Young and the MVP at the same time. I can't remember the last time I saw a pitcher have a year like he did, maybe Pedro Martinez when he was in Boston, but it's been a very long time.

"He was very dominant. He gave his team a chance to win every day, and the rules say that he's eligible to win it. Unless they change the rule, I don't think there's anything wrong if he ends up winning it."

Verlander's resume has been debated for a month. He's the first AL pitcher since Johan Santana in 2006 -- and the first Tiger since Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser in 1945 -- to win the pitching Triple Crown, topping the league with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts. He also led AL pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opponent's batting average and a 0.92 WHIP.

The Tigers were 25-9 in games Verlander started, including five wins when scoring three runs or less. They were 70-58 in games started by anyone else, and won 14 of those games when scoring three runs or less.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.