For the better part of a decade, sometimes in awe and often in disappointment, the baseball world wondered: What could Giancarlo Stanton do if he stayed healthy and productive for an entire season?
The answer came Thursday: win the National League Most Valuable Player award.
Stanton -- the sport's preeminent slugger and the face of the Miami Marlins, who are trying to trade him this offseason -- earned baseball's top individual honor, the first Marlin to do so in the club's quarter-century history. He beat out two other finalists, Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, in a crowded field of qualified candidates in a vote by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America before the postseason.
Stanton finished with 302 points and 10 of 30 first-place votes. Votto had 300 points and 10 first-place votes, while Goldschmidt garnered 239 and four.
Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger while setting career-bests in all major offensive categories, finished 16th with eight points.
With the win, Stanton, 28, also joins an elite, exclusive club of South Florida athletes to be named league MVP. The only others to do so are the Heat's LeBron James (NBA MVP in 2011-12 and 2012-13) and the Dolphins' Dan Marino (NFL MVP in 1984).
This award caps the best year of Stanton's career and perhaps the best offensive year the Marlins have ever seen. While playing a career-high 159 games in his first season sans injury since 2011, Stanton led everybody with 59 homers and 132 RBIs. The former is the ninth-highest total in a season in major league history, tied with 1921 Babe Ruth. The latter was a single-season franchise record.
Stanton also had the top slugging percentage in the NL (.631) while getting on base at a .376 clip and batting .281, 41 points better than his 2016 average. He mixed in 32 doubles while scoring 123 runs.
The watershed moment for Stanton and the Marlins comes three years after he finished second in MVP voting. In 2014, he was a favorite while hitting an NL-best 37 homers, but missed nearly the last three weeks after getting beaned by a pitch. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw won instead.
"He was my MVP hands down in 2014," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said, "before he got hit in the face."