NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Braun sat alone on a balcony in his Malibu home that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, uneasy about his chances of winning the NL Most Valuable Player award.
With the season Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp had, he wasn’t sure the call would come at all.
The phone rang all right, and Braun has been smiling ever since.
Braun was voted the NL MVP after helping the Milwaukee Brewers win their first division title in nearly 30 years.
“I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t anxious or nervous because I was,” Braun said. “It’s honestly difficult to put into words how much this means to me.”
The left fielder received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced Tuesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
A nerve-racking morning that began with a solitary drive turned to elation in the California sun.
The 28-year-old Braun shared the news with his brother and girlfriend, who were at the house. He called his parents, then rang good friend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, and exchanged text messages with Kemp, the runner-up.
“This really is a dream,” Braun said. “This is beyond my wildest dreams to be in this position at this point in my career.”
Kemp earned 10 first-place votes and 332 points after coming close to winning the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. 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 Los Angeles’ 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.”
In his fifth year in the big leagues, 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 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs 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 in California rooting for the Dodgers. “If he had won the MVP I certainly couldn’t have argued with him winning. He had a phenomenal year.”
Although Braun and Kemp had similar statistics, Kemp was hindered by the Dodgers’ 82-79 third-place finish in the NL West. The Brewers won the NL Central title, their first division crown since winning the AL East in 1982.
“Without a doubt I think it’s a drastically different experience playing meaningful games down the stretch,” said Braun, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year.
Braun, in fact, was convinced the Brewers’ first-place finish is what put him over the top with voters.
“If you honestly assess both of our seasons individually I think his numbers are probably better than mine, and I just feel fortunate to have been on the better team,” Braun said. “It’s an individual award, but it’s a result of being part of a special team, a special organization.”
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.”