- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Daniel Murphy always boiled down answers to questions about his success to the simplest of terms. Murphy said he was looking for a pitch to put his “A swing” on, then hoped for good results. Throughout his first season in Washington, Murphy was adverse to in-depth explanations, whether talking about himself or pitchers’ efforts to get him out.

This all from a player who was the Washington Nationals’ Plan B or even C at second base. Murphy was signed after Ben Zobrist chose to join the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips nixed a trade to Washington. Sometimes, the best moves a team can make are the ones it did not.

Representing that theory, Murphy finished second in National League MVP voting announced Thursday night. Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant won the award handily. Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was third. Bryant received 29 of the 30 first-place votes to help him finish with 415 points. Murphy received one first-place vote and beat out Seager by just five points for second place.

Bryant is the first player since San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2012 to win the MVP award and World Series.

Two other Nationals players made the ballot, too. Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer finished 10th. All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, who tore his ACL at the end of the season and is a free agent, received two votes for eighth place.

The argument for Murphy was based in his exceptional work at the plate. He carried adjustments made while with the New York Mets into his first season with Washington. Murphy learned how to become more of a pull and power hitter in New York, which chose not to re-sign him in the offseason. The change to his swing plane and ability to send the ball to right field helped result in a career-high 25 home runs, a league-leading .595 slugging percentage and .985 OPS. Murphy’s .347 average was second in the National League. He missed the final nine games of the season because of a strained right buttock.

Murphy led the league in doubles with 47. Also of note was Murphy’s knack for putting the ball in the play, a trait the Nationals pursued with vigor after the 2015 season. Murphy had 77 extra-base hits and just 57 strikeouts.

But, he trailed Bryant in home runs (39-25) and WAR. Bryant led National League players with a 7.7 WAR, built in part upon his .939 OPS. Murphy was penalized because of below-average defense, in the eye of the statistic, and finished with a 4.6 WAR. Bryant had a positive defensive WAR at 0.8. Murphy was -1.0, according to the Web site Baseball-reference.

Despite not winning the award, Murphy was one of the best values in baseball. The Nationals paid him just $8 million last season. He is under contract the next two seasons for $12 and $17.5 million, respectively.

Bryant won the award in just his second season. The 24 year old has been named an All-Star in both of his major league seasons. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2015 and finished 11th in MVP voting that season.

In the American League MVP vote, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout won for the second time in three years.

Bryant is the 11th MVP in Cubs history, the ninth since the BBWAA began voting for the award in 1931 and the first Cub to win since Sammy Sosa in 1998. Bryant also joins Andre Dawson (1987), Ryne Sandberg (1984), Ernie Banks (two times, 1958 and 1959), Hank Sauer (1952), Phil Cavarretta (1945) and Gabby Hartnett (1935) as BBWAA winners. Rogers Hornsby won the League Award in 1929 and Frank Schulte earned the Chalmers Award in 1911. Bryant is the youngest MVP in franchise history and the first to win the ROY and MVP awards while playing for the Cubs.

Only four players in major league history have won the MVP a season after winning Rookie of the Year: Bryant, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia (2007 and 2008), Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard (2005 and 2006) and Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr. (1982 and 1983).

Seager will be trying to follow Bryant’s path. The Dodgers’ shortstop was unanimously selected as the National League Rookie of the Year this season.

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