Freddie Freeman wins NL MVP; Dodgers’ Mookie Betts finishes second – Press Enterprise

With the coronavirus impacting everyone in the country on one level or another, anyone who can overcome it deserves an award.

Freddie Freeman got his.

The Atlanta Braves first baseman was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player for 2020 on Thursday, receiving 28 of the 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who was the 2018 AL MVP while with the Boston Red Sox, got the other two first-place votes plus 21 second-place votes and five third-place votes to finish second overall. San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado finished third.

Freeman, 31, is the first Braves player to win the award since Chipper Jones in 1999 and the Orange County native makes it 11 consecutive seasons with a first-time winner in the National League, a streak that started after Albert Pujols won his third career MVP award in 2009.

Freeman’s 2020 season – delayed like everyone else in the sport – began precariously. On the first Friday night in July, Freeman’s temperature climbed to 104.5 degrees as his body tried to fight off COVID-19.

“I said a little prayer that night,” Freeman said later. “My body was really, really hot. So I said, ‘Please don’t take me.’ I wasn’t ready. It got a little worrisome that night for me.”

Freeman, a second-round draft pick out of El Modena High in 2007, recovered in time to start the season with the Braves and led them to the NL East division title.

“It impacted me pretty hard,” Freeman said Thursday of his battle with COVID-19. “It took me about eight days to finally feel healthy. But after that, I was still pretty tired. It took the wind out of me just walking to the other side of the house. It took about two weeks into the season to get my legs under me.”

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With almost no time in Summer Camp to rebuild his strength, Freeman said he had to “save my bullets” early in the season. He didn’t take batting practice on the field and made other accommodations in his routine.

“I tried to stay inside to conserve my energy,” Freeman said. “At the beginning, I would hop off the bag holding a runner on and I would get tired.

“It took me a couple weeks to get going but ultimately it turned out to be my best year.”

Two weeks into the season, Braves manager Brian Snitker shuffled his lineup, moving Freeman into the second spot between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna. The trio took off with Freeman leading the majors with a .384 average and 1.220 OPS from Aug. 9 through the end of the season.

Freeman finished no lower than third in the National League in batting average (.341, second), on-base percentage (.462, second), slugging percentage (.640, second), OPS (1.102, second), runs scored (51, first), hits (73, third), total bases (137, second) and RBIs (53, second). The MVP season validated the Braves’ decision in Feb. 2014 to sign Freeman to an eight-year, $135 million contract extension, making him the cornerstone of a rebuilding project. After four consecutive losing seasons, the Braves have now won the NL East each of the past three seasons.

“How far this organization has come from 2015 when we lost 95 games to where we are now, it really is incredible if you take a step back and look at it,” Freeman said. “I was the one guy they held onto. So that actually gave me a lot of confidence going forward that they believed in me to be that guy to help get through the tough times. I always said during that time the light at the end of the tunnel when we start winning again is going to be that much sweeter. We came up one game short this year of the World Series. Now we’ve got a bunch of hungry guys in that clubhouse that know how to win, know how to get to the World Series.”

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