By The Canadian Press
Josh Donaldson heard the MVP chants rain down on him from the Rogers Centre crowd for much of the 2015 season.
While Toronto fans got their wish Thursday night as the Blue Jays third baseman was named the American League MVP, Donaldson said he never let the crowd noise effect his play.
“I remember the first time I heard it and it was kind of like, ‘OK these guys are starting to get pretty serious about what’s going on here,'” Donaldson said on a conference call. “I recognized that I was having a pretty good season at the moment … but I understood too that there was a lot of season left and my goals aren’t necessarily to win MVP’s but to help my team win.
“When I was in Oakland (the fans) started (chanting) for me as well and sometimes I would almost let it become a distraction — not to the point where I was nervous about them chanting that, but I wanted to come through so much for them … I would almost put more pressure on myself,” he added.
“This year I understood … I stayed focused on the task at hand, which was winning games, and I was able to accomplish that.”
Donaldson hit .297 with a league-best 123 runs batted in to help the Blue Jays to their first AL East title — and first playoff appearance — since 1993.
The 29-year-old beat Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout for the honours.
What was characterized as a close race leading up to Thursday’s announcement turned out to be an easy win for Donaldson, who took 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes.
Trout had seven first-place and 22 second-place votes, as well as one third-place vote.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike Trout and what he’s able to do out there on a day-to-day basis,” Donaldson said. “It’s hard for me to sit here and think I beat him. We’re not playing basketball or anything like that, not necessarily competing in that way but in a numbers game. … You know going into the season if you’re going to ultimately win an MVP award you’re going to have to put up better numbers than Mike.”
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals was third with 20 third-place votes.
Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was a unanimous choice as National League MVP. Harper became the youngest unanimous MVP winner in baseball history, capturing the NL award despite his Washington Nationals missing the playoffs.
Harper turned 23 on Oct. 16, after the playoffs had already started. He got all 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second and Toronto native Joey Votto, a first baseman with Cincinnati, was third.
Donaldson joined 1987 winner George Bell as the only Blue Jays players to be named AL MVP.
“Enjoy the club, man,” Bell said in a video message sent out by the Blue Jays. “I’m glad for you, for your family and for Toronto Blue Jays fans.”
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista congratulated his teammate on social media moments after the MVP announcement was made.
“The best of the best!!! Without a doubt!!!” Bautista tweeted at Donaldson’s verified account.
Donaldson, who was also named a Silver Slugger award winner for the first time in his career earlier this month, came to the Blue Jays in an off-season trade that saw Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie and three prospects move to Oakland.
Donaldson said he started feeling comfortable with his new teammates by the end of spring training, but it wasn’t until an April game against the Atlanta Braves — a 6-5 10th inning victory in which he hit the winning home run — that Donaldson really considered himself a Blue Jay.
“You want to be able to go and show these guys the type of player you are in the regular season,” he said. “I think after that first walk-off against Atlanta, that was when I felt a part of the team the most.
“I felt throughout the year that I had a positive impact on a lot of guys in that clubhouse. I always tried to have an open ear to everybody … and get peoples’ mindset back on what it needed to be focused on and ultimately winning the AL East. I felt that was a huge goal for us and we were able to accomplish that.”
-With Files from the Associated Press