PHILADELPHIA -- Considering the amazing gallops for the teams whose uniforms they wore, the National League MVP race had to be this close.
There could be no other finish.
In the end, Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins, all 5-foot-8 of him, stood taller than Colorado's Matt Holliday and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, earning the NL MVP from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"It's exciting. I've always said that I never thought about being an MVP player," Rollins said. "Winning the Gold Glove to me was winning the MVP for shortstop, and that's as far as I went. But to be blessed with the 2007 MVP ... ."
Rollins was named first on half of the 32 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city, second on seven, third on four, fourth on four and fifth on one for a total of 353 points. Holliday received 11 first-place votes, 18 seconds, one third, one fourth and one sixth for 336 points.
The 17-point differential made the 2007 election the ninth closest in the NL since the current format was adopted by the BBWAA in 1938.
Rollins wasn't the only Phillie to show up in the voting. Teammates Ryan Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, finished fifth with 112 points, receiving as high as a third-place vote (he got two). Chase Utley finished eighth with 89 points and Aaron Rowand received three points for an eighth-place vote.
This is the seventh MVP award for a Phillie, as Rollins joins Chuck Klein (1932), Jim Konstanty (1950), Mike Schmidt (1980, 1981, 1986) and Howard (2006). With Howard, the Phillies become the first club with back-to-back MVPs since San Francisco's Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds in 2000 and 2001.
Tuesday's announcement should spark debate about which player meant more to his team, the .340-hitting middle-of-the-order bat who carried the Rockies, or the diminutive shortstop who excelled at every aspect of his game. While Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't have a vote, his bias was clear.
"Holliday had a great season, but every part of J-Roll's game stood out," Manuel said. "I like it man, well deserved. He was the guy who made us go. I'm happy [for him]."
Everything Philadelphia accomplished in 2007 focused on Rollins, starting with his January boast that the Phillies were the "team to beat" in the NL East. That disregarded the Mets, who captured the division the previous season and the Braves, who won it seemingly every year before that.
"Once he popped up, he put his intensity where his mouth was," Manuel said. "He likes the stage. Jimmy has what I'd call a good cockiness."
Rollins acknowledged that his boast may have helped earn him the recognition.
"I don't think people would have paid half as much attention as they did [without the statement]," he said. "I made the statement because I believed in my team, not to draw attention to myself. I did want to put pressure on the team and have us go out there and perform because we've come up a game or two short every year and we needed to get an edge to us. That was the point of me saying that."
Despite taking flack after Philadelphia's 4-11 season-opening stumble, Rollins remained at the center of the Phillies' resurgence. He batted .346 (28-for-81) with six homers, 15 RBIs and 15 runs in 18 games against those Mets and started all 162 games at shortstop, playing all but 17 innings. Batting in the leadoff spot for most of the season, he kept the offense churning.
A defensive whiz as well, Rollins committed just 11 errors, enough for his first Gold Glove, though his fielding percentage was second to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki.
When closer Brett Myers hurled his glove in the air following a called strike three against Washington's Wily Mo Pena -- securing a 13-4 finish that earned the Phillies their first postseason appearance since 1993 -- Rollins' MVP credentials were cemented. He began that game by singling, stealing two bases and scoring on a sacrifice fly.
"If Jimmy doesn't win the MVP, there's something wrong with the system," left fielder Pat Burrell said on the final day of the season. "This guy, he took us on his shoulders from Day 1, and did things in this game that never happened."
Burrell got his wish. The voters on the NL Most Valuable Player Award committee filed ballots after the regular season, and most took the option of waiting until the Rockies' one-game playoff win over the Padres.
Rollins became the first player in history to collect at least 200 hits, 30 homers, 15 triples and 25 steals in a season. Overall, the switch-hitter batted .296, with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers, 94 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, 212 hits and 139 runs scored.
The 139 runs scored and 88 extra-base hits were league records for a shortstop. He also set a Major League record with 716 at-bats, and became the third shortstop in history to have at least 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season, after Barry Larkin in 1996 and Alex Rodriguez in 1998. Rollins is the fourth NL shortstop to win, and the first since Larkin in 1995.
Holliday, meanwhile, captured the league's batting and RBI titles, and led the Rockies into the postseason for the first time since 1995. The left fielder was the focal point of the team's 15-1 run to get there, batting .442 with five homers and 17 RBIs. Overall, he batted .340, with 50 doubles, 36 homers, 137 RBIs, 216 hits and 120 runs scored. He also led the league in hits, total bases, doubles and extra-base hits.
"I called Matt Holliday and congratulated him on having a great season and told him how much he inspired me to play," Rollins said. "You never know which way it's going to go. He had a spectacular season. I had a strong season. I didn't know which way the writers were going to vote."
The statistics told part of the story. The voters went with the player who backed up a bold prediction. On a team with Howard and Utley, who Rollins said would've won if not for a broken right hand, Rollins simply was the team's most valuable.
Now, he has the hardware, six weeks after the regular season ended. After a semi-sleepless night, Rollins said he calmly waited for the phone call from BBWAA secretary/treasurer Jack O'Connell.
"When I woke up, I was trying to be nonchalant about it," Rollins said. "At about five [a.m. PT], I jumped up and looked at the clock and was like, 'OK, I hadn't missed a phone call yet. At about nine, I was like, 'Oh man, I didn't get the phone call,' but it wasn't supposed to come for another hour and a half. When the call finally came, it was a great thing. I was thinking not to think about it, but you can't help but think about it in a situation like this."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.The TrekMedic adds:Sorry for the delay in posting this, but the TrekMedic was tied up rendering care to a patient in North Jersey. In a wonderful twist of events, however, it was delightful to hear WBCS Radio practically choke out the phrase "Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins is the 2007 NL MVP!"