NL homer, RBI champ Kemp wins Aaron Award
Outfielder first Dodgers player honored for outstanding offense
LOS ANGELES -- The offseason has started nicely for center fielder Matt Kemp, who on Monday was named the winner of the 2011 Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the National League.
Fans voted for the award, along with a special panel of Hall of Famers that included Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's all-time career home run record. Kemp is the first Dodger to win of the award, which was launched in 1999. Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays was named the American League Hank Aaron Award winner for the second consecutive year.
"I congratulate Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp on being this year's recipients of the 2011 Hank Aaron Award, named for one of the true pillars of our game," Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said. "Jose has repeated as the American League winner after another brilliant season at the plate, leading Major League Baseball in home runs, slugging and walks. Matt enjoyed an extraordinary year, vying for the National League Triple Crown in the season's final days and stealing 40 bases on the year. The best is yet to come for both of these young men. I look forward to watching Jose and Matt continue to emulate Hank's example in the years ahead."
Kemp, 27, batted .324 (third in the NL), and he led the NL in homers (39), RBIs (126), runs scored (115) and total bases (353).
"This is a great honor, because Mr. Hank Aaron paved the way for guys like me," said Kemp. "He's been a great part of baseball on and off the field. He's a true hero to a lot of people around the world. When you think of Hank Aaron, you think of greatness. To follow in his footsteps, I'm blessed to be here."
The 2011 NL All-Star also finished among league leaders in multihit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth).
He became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in his respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, 1909-11), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (1920), Chuck Klein (1932), Willie Mays (1955) and Aaron (1963).
In addition, the sixth-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was the first Dodger to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs since Dolph Camilli in 1941 and the first Dodger in history to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and runs scored.
"You can't do much more than that," Selig said.
Kemp, who hit .335 on the year with runners in scoring position, is one of five players all-time to eclipse 30 homers, 35 stolen bases, 100 RBIs and a .310 average, joining Ken Williams (1922), Barry Bonds (1992), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).
"It is a real privilege to have my name on the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each League," Aaron, who is home recovering from knee replacement surgery, said in a release. "I want to congratulate Jose and Matt on their fantastic seasons and express my gratitude to the Hall of Famers and fans who helped select this year's winners."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.