NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun won the NL Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday after helping lead the Brewers to their first division title in nearly 30 years.
The left fielder received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t anxious or nervous because I was,” said Braun, who was sitting on the balcony of his home in Malibu, Calif., when he received the call that he had won. “I was obviously thrilled, excited. It’s honestly difficult to put into words how much this means to me.
Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp, who came close to winning the Triple Crown, received 10 first-place votes and finished second with 332 points. Braun’s teammate Prince Fielder finished third with 229 points, and Arizona’s Justin Upton finished fourth with 214 points. Fielder and Upton each received one first-place vote.
St. Louis’ Albert Pujols finished fifth. It was the 11th straight year the three-time MVP was in the top 10 in balloting.
NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was 12th in the voting a day after Detroit’s Justin Verlander added the AL MVP to his Cy Young.
“I think he was the single most dominant player in baseball this year,” Braun said of Verlander. “As a position player I’m biased to the fact that I think position players should be at the forefront of the award but if you honestly look at what he accomplished, how much he meant to that team and how dominant he truly was you cannot make any argument against him winning that award.”
Braun led the NL with a .597 slugging percentage and had a chance to overtake Jose Reyes for the batting title on the last day of the season but finished second with a .332 average. The four-time All-Star had 33 homers, 111 RBIs, 109 runs scored and stole 33 bases as Milwaukee won a franchise-best 96 games. His 77 extra-base hits was tops in the league.
Kemp led the NL in homers with 39 and RBIs with 126 and was third in average (.324), but played for the NL West’s third-place Dodgers. He also won a Gold Glove.
“Matt’s one of the best players in the game. No question about it. The season he had will go down as one of the greatest in Dodgers history,” said Braun, who grew up rooting for the Dodgers. “If he had won the MVP I certainly couldn’t have argued with him winning. he had a phenomenal year.”
While Braun and Kemp had similar statistics, Kemp was hindered by the Dodgers’ 82-79 third-place finish in the NL West.
“Without a doubt I think it’s a drastically different experience playing meaningful games down the stretch,” Braun said.
The 28-year-old Braun is the first Brewers player to win the MVP award in the National League and first since Robin Yount won in 1989, when Milwaukee was in the AL East. Rollie Fingers (1981) and Yount in 1982 are the other Brewers to take home MVP honors.
“Robin’s the greatest player in Milwaukee Brewers history so anytime you’re mentioned alongside him it’s a tremendous achievement,” Braun said.
Braun signed a $105 million, five-year contract extension in April, linking him to the Brewers through 2020. He received a $100,000 bonus for winning the MVP.
“This team has been so loyal to me. They believed in me. They drafted me. They helped to develop me and there would be nothing more meaningful to me than to eventually win a world championship in Milwaukee,” he said. “It would mean a lot more to me than if I went to a large-market team, big-market-team and won two or three championships.”
The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year winner rewarded the club with his fourth straight season with more than 100 RBIs. He hit a three-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth inning on Sept. 23 to clinch the division title for Milwaukee.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.