By Rob Rains
Eight months ago, under the Florida sun, Adam Wainwright made a prediction that came true on Thursday night when Cardinals’ teammate Paul Goldschmidt won the NL Most Valuable Player award.
“I told people in spring training he was going to win the MVP,” Wainwright said in a text message. “His swings were different and more confident. He was covering the whole zone with power… not many hitters can do that.
“And he continued that all the way deep into the season. We all knew he was going to win for his great offense this year, but it was more than that. His defense was stellar and his leadership on and off the field made everyone around him better.”
Goldschmidt received 22 first-place votes from the 30 BBWAA members, two representing each NL city. The other eight voted him second, allowing him to win the award easily over runnerup Manny Machado of the Padres.
Nolan Arenado finished third, receiving the other first-place vote, from a writer in Pittsburgh.
It took Goldschmidt some time to move past his disappointment of not playing well in September, or in the two losses to the Phillies that eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs. In retrospect, and now with an MVP award to confirm it, Goldschmidt can admit that 2022 was a really good season.
“To me that was the best year I’ve had in my career,” Goldschmidt said Thursday night during a conference call. “Even if I didn’t win the MVP award, this is the best individual year I’ve had, the best I’ve played, the most consistent I’ve been.”
Goldschmidt also said it was the most fun he has had in his career, attributing some of that feeling to being teammates with Arenado and Albert Pujols and how playing with them helped make him a better player.
“It was probably the most fun year I’ve had,” Goldschmidt said. “Those are different, your best year and your most fun, but for those to line up is very special.”
Goldschmidt said he did not believe he would have won the award without Arenado.
“We talked almost before every at-bat,” Goldschmidt said. “I said it on the broadcast and it wasn’t just trying to be nice, I don’t win this award if it’s not for Nolan. He helps me so much. I talk to him all the time. I vent to him, I ask questions to him.
“He’s truly incredible. He pushes me, he motivates me. We are there for each other. Hopefully we can both play well next year.”
Goldschmidt is the first Cardinal to be named the MVP since Pujols in 2009. Pujols made the announcement of Goldschmidt’s victory during the MLB Network broadcast.
It’s his latest award during what has been a busy month, having also been named the winner of the Hank Aaron award as the best hitter in the league, a Silver Slugger award as the best hitting first baseman, the Heart and Hustle award, presented by the Player’s Association and the Player’s Choice award as the most outstanding player in the league.
About the only award that Goldschmidt did not win was the Gold Glove. He was one of three finalists, but the award went to Arizona’s Christian Walker.
During his years with the Diamondbacks, Goldschmidt twice finished second in the MVP voting. He finished behind Andrew McCutchen in 2013 and behind Bryce Harper in 2015 but neither election was close. Goldschmidt also finished third in the voting in 2017.
“I never felt like I was missing something,” Goldschmidt said. “I felt like I had some great years throughout my career but some other guys in those individual years played better than me. To finish second or third, or top five or top 10, that’s a great year. Anyone is going to take that.
“I didn’t feel like I was wanting to prove anything or had missed out on anything. You want to go out there and play well and do your job and help the team win. That was what the goal was. This will be a very special year. If I had finished secord or third, I still would have looked back and said this was a great individual year and I was proud of that.”
A strong four months from May through August gave Goldschmidt a chance at winning the Triple Crown heading into the final month of the season but a disappointing September dropped him out of that race and he did not end up leading the league in any of the Triple Crown categories.
“Those four months were as good as I could have played,” Goldschmidt said. “September was not my best at all but you are not going to be consistent; there are ups and downs, that’s how it is.”
For those four months, Goldschmidt hit .342 with 32 homers and 94 RBIs in 104 games. He hit only two homers and drove in 10 runs in 27 games after Sept. 1 and finished the season with a .317 average, 35 homers, 115 RBIs, 106 runs and 41 doubles.
Goldschmidt did lead the NL in slugging average (.578) and in OPS (.981).
“It’s not like the goal is to win the MVP,” he said. “You want to go play well and do your part and I was able to do that.”
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Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports