Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 11/22/11
Thank goodness Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun was able to claim the National League MVP. That's the way it is supposed to be. Braun was No. 1 on 20 ballots and No. 2 on 12 ballots. Runner-up Matt Kemp of Los Angeles was voted No. 1 on 10 ballots, while one ballot had Braun's teammate, Prince Fielder, and one had Justin Upton of Arizona in the No. 1 slots. There is, however, no argument over the worthiness of Braun. There's also no argument about the wonderful season that Kemp put together for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it's hard to buy the claim that he was the NL MVP. He was the Player of the Year, honored both by the Major League Baseball Players Association and also voters for the Hank Aaron Award, which goes to the best position player in each league. He also was honored by the Dodgers, who signed him to an eight-year, 160 million contract extension just a year removed from when members of their front office and previous coaching staff questioned his attitude and wondered if he could be a part of an eventual contending team. Braun had a sparkling season. But MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. Put an emphasis on the term valuable. Why is that so hard for anyone to understand? For all the new-fangled forms of statistical analysis that have been developed, there is still one stat that has the ultimate value in baseball, and pretty much any other sport -- victories. The Dodgers didn't win. They finished third in the NL West. Players on third-place teams don't even get postseason shares anymore. That's how much value a third-place finish has. There is the claim that without Kemp, the Dodgers would have finished somewhere in Baja California. This begs the question of how poorly are the Dodgers run that a team with the Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, and the Hank Aaron Award winner, Kemp, but couldn't even find itself in a pennant race. Boston and Atlanta, at least, were able to blow a postseason bid down the stretch. The Dodgers were out of the NL West race before Memorial Day. They didn't even spend a day in first place after April 4. They were 14 games below .500 by July 6, and never were more than three games above .500, and that didn't happen until Sept. 28. The Dodgers had to paddle upstream just inch above .500, finishing 82-79. The Dodgers were never closer to first place than 10 games after Aug. 6. They finished 11 12 games out. They didn't even get to .500 for good until they climbed to 78-77. They had a winning record against only three teams with winning records -- Atlanta (5-2), St. Louis (4-3) and Detroit (2-1). Braun and the Brewers, meanwhile, won the NL Central. They faced the pressure of being a preseason favorite, and Braun and his teammates handled it well. They even knocked off the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series before being upset by eventual world champion St. Louis in the NLCS. And as Braun was quick to point out, it was an award that was about more than him. It was his teammates, his manager and coaches, and even the Brewers ownership that played a role in his claiming the MVP award for the Brewers for the fourth time, joining Rollie Fingers in 1981, and Robin Yount in 1982 and 1989. "A reason I won is they put a better team around me," he said. Braun, however, did make the team better, himself. While Kemp put up strong numbers, hitting .324 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI, Braun's numbers compared quite nicely. Braun did, after all, lead the NL with a .597 slugging percentage, .994 OPS, and 77 extra-base hits. He was second with a .332 batting average, drove in 111 runs, hit 33 home runs and stole 33 bases. And he was nervous while he awaited the announcement on Tuesday. "I woke up early and went for a drive," Braun admitted. "From about 9:30 a.m., on I sat outside my (Malibu, Calif., home) with my cell phone and home phone, hoping I would get a call from a number I didn't recognize." He got the call. Kemp didn't, although he did receive 10 first-place votes, 16 second-place votes and six third-place votes to finish second ahead of Fielder, and Upton, who finished 3-4 and each had one first place vote. Braun, Kemp, Fielder and Upton were the only players who were included on the ballots of all 32 voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America. And fittingly, Braun won.
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