A breakout performance in his first full Major League season earned Gonzalez third place, the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Monday. Joey Votto, who took MVP honors for the first time in his career, collected 31 of 32 first-place votes. Albert Pujols was second. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Gonzalez's Rockies teammate, finished fifth, behind Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.
As the season entered the final month, it was clear the award was down to Votto, Pujols and Gonzalez. All three had a chance to earn the NL's Triple Crown -- championships in batting average, home runs and RBIs -- the first since the Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Each fell short.
Gonzalez, who won the batting title with a .336 average and also led the NL in hits (197) and total bases (351), said his true goal was to lift Colorado into the playoffs.
In that sense, Gonzalez said, Votto was the only one of the three who succeeded.
"It was a great battle," Gonzalez said. "The three of us finished strong this season. We did everything possible to help our club. The only guy who made it to the playoffs was Votto.
"We were not concentrating on the Triple Crown thing. We were concentrating on helping our clubs. Only one guy made it. There is a little frustration for me and Pujols, but we did everything we could."
Gonzalez's peers still voted him as the Major Leagues' Outstanding Player in Players Choice balloting despite the Rockies falling short.
Gonzalez finished second in the league in RBIs with 117 -- despite batting leadoff for 44 games -- and was fourth in home runs with 34. He accumulated those impressive numbers even though he struck out 135 times, a number that can be trimmed with added experience.
A cut in strikeouts also could mitigate another statistic that is known to disturb MVP voters when it comes to Rockies players -- the difference between home and road statistics. Gonzalez sizzled with a .380 batting average, 26 home runs and 76 RBIs at Coors Field. On the road, he hit .289 -- by no means an embarrassment -- with eight homers and 41 RBIs. Gonzalez fanned 54 times in 74 games at home, and 81 times in 71 games on the road.
Gonzalez vows to be a better overall player next season, knowing that pitchers will be paying special attention to finding his weaknesses.
"Every time it gets more difficult, but I'm going to be more difficult, too," Gonzalez said. "That's our job. Like I did last year, I'll work really hard during the offseason to be special. I worked really hard this past offseason to do something really special, and it gave me something very good, like all the numbers and the batting title. I'm going to try to work twice as hard, try to be better.
"You can't feel comfortable with what you have. The simple point I'm going to try to use is we didn't get to the playoffs. Now I've got to work hard for something more special."
As the Rockies contended during the second half of the season, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki carried the offense. Gonzalez batted third, one spot ahead of Tulowitzki, who finished fourth in the NL with a .315 average and added 27 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Although Colorado faltered in late September, the performances increased the profiles of Gonzalez and Tulowitzki. For the Rockies to take the next step, and possibly for the individual performances to be rewarded, they will need help.
"You know there are going to be months that the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters are going to be hot," Tulowitzki said. "It's not that the other guys weren't trying. But if they have at-bats where they put the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in position to knock in runs more frequently, we'll do a better job as a team. That doesn't necessarily mean a hit. It means bunting guys over, setting tables. We'll work on doing a better job of that."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.