Zuckerman's NL MVP ballot

Zuckerman's NL MVP ballot
November 22, 2011, 7:52 pm
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There are few rights and privileges given to members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America more important than the opportunity to vote for the sport's top awards: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.

And I think we all would agree the crown jewel of all the awards is the MVP.

So it was my honor to be one of two members of the Baltimore-Washington chapter of the BBWAA to be given a ballot for this year's NL MVP. It wasn't the first time I've voted for this award, but it was one of the tougher races I've had to help decide.

The competition between the top two contenders for the award -- the Brewers' Ryan Braun and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp -- was fierce. There truly wasn't much that separated one outfielder from the other.

But in the end, I was confident Braun deserved the award over Kemp, for one primary reason: He was a vital member of a division championship team, while Kemp was the best player on a team that boasted a losing record until a late-September surge propelled it to an 82-79 finish.

Now, you can say that's an antiquated way of thinking about these things. If Kemp was the better player, why should he be penalized for wearing the uniform of a team that was never in the pennant race?

I get that argument. And I actually subscribe to it sometimes. I have no qualms handing out the MVP to someone from a losing team. But only if that player was head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the league.

In Kemp's case, I can't say that's true. Yes, he led the league in home runs and RBI, fell one homer short of a 40-40 season and made a real run at the NL's first Triple Crown since Ducky Medwick in 1937.

But Braun was no slouch. He was second in the NL in batting average and won the slugging and OPS crowns. He actually bested Kemp in nearly every statistic that's measured by averages and only came up short in the compilation stats like homers, RBI and runs scored in part because he played in 11 fewer games.

Point is, the disparity between Braun and Kemp was minimal at best. And to me, when the race between two players in that close, I'm going to tilt toward the guy who helped his team reach the postseason.

And it appears my colleagues agreed, because Braun won the award with 20 of 32 first-place votes. Kemp finished second with 10 first-place votes. Prince Fielder and Justin Upton each received one first-place vote.

Any would have been a deserving winner of this year's NL MVP, but I'm confident in my selection of Braun over Kemp, not to mention the rest of my Top 10, which is listed below. (Note: All ballots had to be submitted by the end of the regular season, so postseason performance was not factored into these awards at all.) ...

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers
2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
3. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
4. Prince Fielder, Brewers
5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
6. Joey Votto, Reds
7. Roy Halladay, Phillies
8. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
9. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
10. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

FYI: The guys who just missed making my Top 10 were, in no particular order: Jose Reyes, Ryan Howard and Michael Morse.

And now, here is the actual final ballot, with every player that received votes (including Morse, who got one seventh-place vote and one 10th-place vote)...

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers
2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
3. Prince Fielder, Brewers
4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
6. Joey Votto, Reds
7. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
8. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
9. Roy Halladay, Phillies
10. Ryan Howard, Phillies
11. Jose Reyes, Mets
12. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
13. Shane Victorino, Phillies
14. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks
15. Cliff Lee, Phillies
16. Hunter Pence, AstrosPhillies
17t. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
17t. John Axford, Brewers
19. Michael Morse, Nationals
20. Carlos Beltran, MetsGiants
21t. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
21t. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
23t. Starlin Castro, Cubs
23t. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
23t. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
23t. Mike Stanton, Marlins