On Thursday evening, Major League Baseball will announce this year’s Most Valuable Player award winners. Mookie Betts, the Boston Red Sox outfielder, is expected to win in the American League, giving him an important individual honor to go along with his World Series ring. Should Betts prove victorious, it will mean Mike Trout — the Los Angeles Angels outfielder widely considered the best player in baseball — has once again came up short in pursuit of hardware.Voters are arguably the only ones who have succeeded in limiting Trout. In his first seven full seasons, including 2018, he’s finished at least top-four in the MVP race each year. He’s won two times and finished second in another three instances: to Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and 2013, and then to Josh Donaldson in 2015. That Trout has finished second more than he’s won would seem unprecedented. It’s not — not necessarily, anyway. Go back to the players most recently considered the game’s best — Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds — and it’s obvious that voters don’t always go with the top dog.

Pujols was a certainty to finish high on MVP ballots from 2001 until 2011, the last time he ended up in the top five. He won three MVP awards in that time and finished second on four occasions. If voters had just went by WAR totals, then Pujols would have also won the award in 2006 (instead of Ryan Howard); in 2007 (Jimmy Rollins); and in 2010 (Joey Votto). That would’ve given Pujols six MVP wins — the second-most all-time, behind Bonds himself.As for Bonds, he ended his career having won seven MVP awards. Yet the argument can be made he was snubbed on other occasions. Bonds finished inside the top five without winning five times. Again, based solely on WAR, he deserved to win on two of those instances: in 1991 (Terry Pendleton) and in 1996 (Ken Caminiti). That would’ve given him nine MVP awards.Obviously more goes into selecting an MVP than looking at WAR totals. Heck, WAR wasn’t around during those Bonds days, and existed only in a WARP state for most of Pujols’s prime. But that’s not the point here. Rather, the point is that while Trout winning just twice in seven years feels like a crime, it’s not that weird — not when he’s compared to Pujols and Bonds.

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