led the NL in runs, home runs, RBIs and total bases in 2011 but was runner-up for MVP. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
The race for the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player award was an extremely close one. I was among the many who believed that Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp deserved the award, but 20 of the 32 first place votes, and thus the hardware, went to Ryan Braun instead, largely because Braun's Brewers won their division while Kemp's Dodgers finished third in theirs. In light of Braun's suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, that result looks even worse now than it did then. So much so that Kemp was willing to speak out about it on Tuesday.
"Do I feel like it should be stripped?" Kemp said echoing reporters' questions about Braun's MVP award, "I mean, yeah, I do. I feel like it should be, but that's not for me to decide, you know? That's not for me to decide."
Kemp didn't go as far as to say that the award should be given to him as the runner-up, but he didn't reject the notion either, adding, "I was in the race for MVP and got second. The voters had their opinion of who they wanted to pick as MVP. You have to respect who they picked. It is what it is. For me, all I can worry about is getting healthy. It definitely would be nice to have an MVP trophy, but I didn't win the MVP. I was second."
"As a player who never took PEDs or steroids, it's upsetting that [PED users] take away from those guys who bust their butts in the gym and play the game clean. . . . You don't like getting lied to. A lot of people feel the same way. I'm sure I'm but another on that list."
The award won't be taken away from Braun or reassigned. Baseball Writers' Association of America's secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell stated as much in an email on Monday, before Kemp made his comments, asserting that "the decision was already made. [Braun] won it."
That's the right stance for the BBWAA to take. Adjusting baseball history to diminish the significance of PED users only compounds the lie and is a very slippery slope given how widespread drug use was in the game at its peak. Ken Caminiti didn't lose his 1996 MVP award when he confessed to Tom Verducci
in 2002 that he used steroids that season. The BBWAA didn't take its hardware back from the handfuls of other major award winners since revealed to have been juicing. Nor should it have. That doesn't mean that Kemp doesn't have the right to feel cheated. He was, twice over, first by Braun and then by the voters, who should have given the award to Kemp anyway.