By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - First baseman Joey Votto, who helped the Cincinnati Reds claim their first post-season berth in 15 years, was a runaway choice as National League Most Valuable Player announced Monday.
Votto, 27, was listed first in all but one of the 32 ballots submitted by two baseball writers from each National League city in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
He finished in the top three in all the Triple Crown categories with a .324 batting average (second), 37 home runs (third) and 113 runs batted in (third) and led the league in on-base percentage (.424).
The other first-place vote went to St Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who was named second on 21 ballots.
Pujols, a three-time MVP who won the award in the past two seasons, led the league in home runs (42), RBI (118) and runs, and hit for a .312 average. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez finished third.
Votto said he was thrilled to win the award and surprised at the wide margin of victory over Pujols.
"I was shocked, surprised," Votto told reporters on a conference call. "I thought I must have snuck it in there. I didn't think it would be so conclusive.
"Albert is the great player. Carlos and myself, we're trying to learn to be major leaguers and establish ourselves.
"I'm excited. I'm very proud and very thankful."
Votto's spectacular season came after a 2009 campaign in which he suffered from stress over the sudden passing of his father at age 52, which led to anxiety and panic attacks that left him unable to play for periods at a time.
"After I was told (about the award), I couldn't help but cry," Votto said.
"I know how much this means to me and how much it would have meant to my father. It's pretty much the pinnacle of awards. I have overcome a lot and I'm very proud of myself."
A native of Toronto, Votto followed Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins (2006) and Larry Walker of the 1997 Colorado Rockies as Canadian winners of a major league MVP award.
"I followed in the footsteps of Justin Morneau and Larry Walker," he said.
"There's something about having guys who have achieved before you, that set a bar you want to reach. Larry was that type of player for me, especially in the Toronto area."
"Most importantly, we won," he said. "It had been a long time since we had been in the playoffs."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)