NEW YORK - Back in January, when Jimmy Rollins was making bold predictions, he left one out. Not only were his Phillies the team to beat in the NL East, he was headed for an MVP season.
Rollins won the National League MVP award Tuesday, edging Matt Holliday in a close race after propelling Philadelphia to its first playoff berth in 14 years with his speed and steady all-around play.
"It never crossed my mind that I would go out there and win an MVP," Rollins said on a conference call from California. "I had a real big smile on my face, to make it simple. I was excited but I wasn`t quite sure what to feel."
The Gold Glove shortstop received 16 of 32 first-place votes and finished with 353 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers` Association of America.
Rollins, left off the All-Star team in July, proved a prophet after saying last winter that Philadelphia was the team to beat in a competitive division. He backed it up with his stellar play on the field - and never backed off his confident comments.
"If I say something it`s because I believe in it," he explained Tuesday.
Holliday, the left fielder who led Colorado`s surprising charge to the World Series, got 11 first-place votes and 336 points. Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder came in third, with five first-place votes and 284 points.
It was the closest election for NL MVP since Atlanta third baseman Terry Pendleton beat out Pittsburgh`s Barry Bonds by 15 points in 1991.
"I don`t know what they look at," Rollins said, "but being a shortstop, that`s No. 1. Defense is first. Defense is always first."
Rollins batted .296 with 30 homers, 94 RBIs and 41 steals from the leadoff spot, helping Philadelphia rally from a big September deficit to win the NL East. He led the league in runs (139) and triples (20), becoming the second consecutive Phillies player to win the MVP following Ryan Howard last year.
"I was like, if he can win it I can win it. The only thing he can do better than me is hit home runs further than me," Rollins said.
Holliday, the NL championship series MVP, hit .340 with 137 RBIs - becoming the third player since 1967 to lead a league in both categories. He also had 36 homers and topped the NL in hits (216), total bases (386) and doubles (50).
"It`s Jimmy Rollins` day, and I don`t want to step on his day," Holliday said in a statement through the Rockies.
Rollins, who turns 29 next week, was a leader all year for the injury-ravaged Phillies, practically carrying them at times because Howard, Chase Utley and several key pitchers were sidelined for significant stretches.