NEW YORK — Joey Votto and Albert Pujols had a long conversation behind the batting cage before a game a few years ago.
"There's something about a star player of that magnitude kind of pulling you in and saying, it's okay, we can talk, don't be a rookie right now, we're going to talk like men," Votto said. "I think he made me feel comfortable and a little more confident."
Votto was overwhelmingly elected the National League's Most Valuable Player on Monday, ending Pujols' two-year reign.
A first baseman who helped the Reds reach the postseason for the first time in 15 years, Votto received 31 of 32 first-place votes and 443 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Pujols, the Cardinals first baseman, was second.
"I tried to keep my head down for almost a year there, and it was nice to speak to somebody who's been there and done that when it comes to everything," Votto said. "For him to give me time of the day and to talk about defensive stuff and ways to improve my game was very generous of him, and he certainly didn't have to do that."
Votto finished second in the NL in batting average at .324 and third in homers (37) and RBIs (113). He led the NL in slugging percentage (.600), topped the majors in on-base percentage (.424) and had 16 stolen bases in 21 chances.
"After the season, when I looked at my numbers and at Albert's numbers, I thought: 'Holy cow! He's beaten me in a lot of them,' " Votto said. "He beat me in runs, he beat me in RBIs, home runs, I think a couple others. I beat him in a few of the qualitative stats."
Mets hire Collins
NEW YORK — Terry Collins is a major-league manager again, hired by the Mets to help revitalize a franchise that has struggled recently.
The Mets said they will hold a news conference this morning to introduce Collins.
Collins takes over for Jerry Manuel, who was fired along with general manager Omar Minaya in a restructuring of the front office after another dismal season.
ATHLETICS: Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma said he's disappointed after contract negotiations broke down. Oakland's four-year, $15.25 million proposal was about equal in annual salary to what Iwakuma made with the Rakuten Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.
BRAVES: Third baseman Chipper Jones, who tore the ACL in his left knee during the summer and didn't play after Aug. 10, was cleared to swing a bat.
DODGERS: Davey Lopes will coach first base and Tim Wallach third base on new manager Don Mattingly's first coaching staff. Mattingly also hired former Royals manager Trey Hillman as his bench coach.
REDS: Left-hander Dontrelle Willis agreed to a minor-league contract. Willis, 29, has a 5.81 ERA since 2007.