11/22/11 5:00 PM EST
Kemp finishes second in NL MVP Award vote
Dodgers center fielder falls short as Crew's Braun wins hardware
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
At the end of a disappointing 2010 season, Kemp said he had let down his fans and promised to bounce back in 2011 by hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases. He fell one home run short.
Now after finishing second to Ryan Braun for the NL MVP Award Tuesday, Kemp set the bar even higher.
"Fifty/fifty," he said Tuesday, meaning 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases. "Y'all created a monster. I'm about to get back in the weight room super tough to be better than last year. Got to set your limits high, man. 'Beast Mode.' Forty/forty is tough, so 50/50 is even tougher.
"Like I said, anything can happen. I'm going to set my limits high and try to get to them. Set them at 50/50. Never been done. Yeah, I'm serious. If I don't, it'll look like I let you all down, and I don't want to be a liar. I know you think I'm crazy, but take it to another level."
Nothing like ratcheting up the pressure to motivate a performer who loves being in the moment.
"I always want to end on top," he said. "I feel I had a great year; a lot of other people thought I did, but I wasn't MVP. I'm not taking anything away from Ryan. But I feel this will give other people motivation. It definitely gives me motivation to do something big next year. I got a lot of awards this year and I'm happy about the season. The Henry Aaron Award was the most special for me. MVP would have been great, but it didn't happen. I'm not dwelling on it. I'll just get better for next season."
Kemp's remarkable all-around season wasn't enough to overcome his club's mediocrity, while Braun's Brewers made the playoffs.
"That could have been a factor," said Kemp. "Writers voted for who they felt should win, and I respect the decision. Next year, I have to do better and make their decision easier for them. We all had great seasons -- Braun and me and Prince [Fielder] and [Albert] Pujols and [Justin] Upton. I don't think anybody knew who was going to win. Ryan came out to be the one, and he deserved it."
Braun felt club success definitely impacted the outcome.
"If [Kemp] had won the award, I couldn't have argued with it, by any means," Braun told the Bill Michaels Show, a syndicated radio program in Wisconsin. "If Prince Fielder had won the award, I couldn't have argued with it, by any means. I just feel so fortunate to have ended up winning.
"I think if you honestly assess my season vs. Matt Kemp's, I think Matt Kemp probably had a better year than me, individually. But I was fortunate to be on a better team and had an opportunity to be in some big moments."
As two of the game's finest young stars, Kemp and Braun have grown close over the past year.
"I already gave him a shout out on Twitter," said Kemp. "Let everybody know I hold no ill will against Mr. MVP. He's the man, he won the award and nobody should take anything away from him. He had an amazing season and his team made the playoffs."
Kemp said the only disappointment about losing Tuesday was that he couldn't fulfill a spring promise he made to Dodgers legend Don Newcombe.
"I definitely wanted to make that wish come true and win that award for Mr. Newcombe," said Kemp, who signed a $160 million extension last week. "I've got eight more years in L.A. to try and win that award."
The 27-year-old Kemp batted .324 (third in the NL) with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs in 2011, leading the NL in homers, RBIs, runs scored (115) and total bases (353). 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).
Kemp 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 their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, 1909-11), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (1920), Chuck Klein (1932), Willie Mays (1955) and Hank Aaron (1963).
In addition, he was the first Dodgers player 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. He is one of five players all time to eclipse 30 homers, 35 stolen bases, 100 RBIs and a .310 batting average, joining Ken Williams (1922), Barry Bonds (1992), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).
This year, Kemp was voted by teammates as the winner of the Roy Campanella Award, which goes to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Famer. He's also received the Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the NL, the Baseball America Player of the Year and the NL Stan Musial Award, presented by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Kemp won a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award, and he was named Players Choice Outstanding Player in the NL and was named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team.
The last Dodger to win an MVP Award was Kirk Gibson in 1988 and the last to finish second was Adrian Beltre in 2004.
National League Most Valuable Player voting totals
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.