NEW YORK » Bryce Harper became the youngest unanimous MVP winner in baseball history Thursday, capturing the NL award despite his Washington Nationals missing the playoffs.
Josh Donaldson took the AL MVP, earning the honor after helping boost the Toronto Blue Jays back into the postseason for the first time since 1993.
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.
The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year led the majors in slugging percentage and on-base average. The outfielder hit .330 with 42 home runs and 99 RBIs.
Harper was the first player from a Washington franchise to win an MVP — no one on the original or expansion Senators or Nats had done it.
Harper was the fourth-youngest player overall to win an MVP, with Stan Musial, Johnny Bench and Vida Blue also 22 but not quite as old.
Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was second in the voting and Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto was third. Yoenis Cespedes, acquired by the Mets from Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline, finished 13th.
Harper put aside his injury problems from recent seasons and put up huge numbers. The banged-up Nationals didn’t do nearly so well, starting the season as World Series favorites and finishing far out of contention.
Harper missed a lot of games in 2013 after a pair of run-ins with walls, then was sidelined for much of 2014 following a headfirst slide that hurt his thumb.
This year, Harper reported to spring training with one goal — the only number he focused on was games played.
Harper finished with a .649 slugging percentage and a .460 on-base average. He went into the final day of the regular season with a chance to win the NL batting title — Miami’s Dee Gordon edged him — and scored a league-leading 118 runs.
The three-time All-Star also continued to draw fans in the Washington area and beyond. His constantly changing hairstyles are always getting attention and the selfie he took in the outfield before a game at Nationals Park this season boosted his popularity even more.
His hitting, though, is what makes him so special.
“You could see throughout the season what this guy meant to this ballclub. And don’t forget, this guy carried us throughout the whole season,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday.
“Every team that we played circled his name and said, ‘This guy’s not going to beat us.’ And with that said, he beat a lot of teams. So it was a remarkable season. As we said at this time last year, I thought that ‘Harp’ was just scratching the surface of what he can be.”
Donaldson received 23 first-place votes. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout got the other first-place votes finished second for the third time — he won the award last year. Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain was third.
Donaldson led the AL with 123 RBIs and topped the majors by scoring 122 runs. He hit 41 home runs and batted .297.
Traded from Oakland to Toronto last offseason, Donaldson joined a power-packed lineup that included Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The Blue Jays battered their way to the AL East title and led the majors in runs and homers, with Donaldson leading the way.
“I feel like I was able to take advantage of the opportunities put in front of me,” Donaldson said on the MLB Network telecast of the awards.
Donaldson joined George Bell (1987) as the only Toronto players to win the MVP.