Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:01 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 8:24 pm

Ryan Braun wins NL MVP

By Matt Snyder

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has won the National League Most Valuable Player award, garnering 20 of the 32 first-place votes. This marks the first time a Brewers player has ever won the NL MVP. Previous Brewers winners -- Robin Yount (1982, 1989) and Rollie Fingers (1981) -- came when the ballclub was a member of the American League.

Braun, 28, hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 109 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. He led the NL in slugging percentage and OPS. He also helped lead his team to a 96-66 record, an NL Central championship and a trip to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history.

"This really is a dream," Braun said. "This is beyond my wildest dreams to be in this position at this point in my career."

Most Valuable Player
Braun beat out a pretty solid field of sluggers in the Senior Circuit, with Matt Kemp of the Dodgers finishing second.

Kemp's case was very strong, and this felt like a two-horse race for the entire month of September. Kemp challenged for the triple crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI). He led the NL with 39 home runs and 126 RBI, but finished third in batting average at a .324 clip. He also stole 40 bases, won a Gold Glove and led the NL in total bases.

"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. "If he had won the MVP I certainly couldn't have argued with him winning. He had a phenomenal year."

Alas, the Dodgers weren't in contention all season, finishing third place in the NL West at 82-79. Ultimately, the difference in team performance seems to be what propelled Braun over Kemp.

"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."

Here are the top 10 finishers, with voting points in parentheses:

1. Braun (388)
2. Kemp (332)
3. Prince Fielder (229)
4. Justin Upton (214)
5. Albert Pujols (166)
6. Joey Votto (135)
7. Lance Berkman (118)
8. Troy Tulowitzki (69)
9. Roy Halladay (52)
10. Ryan Howard (39)

The following players, in order of vote totals, also received votes: Jose Reyes, Clayton Kershaw, Shane Victorino, Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, John Axford, Michael Morse, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Montero, Yadier Molina, Starlin Castro, Craig Kimbrel, Carlos Ruiz, Mike Stanton.

It's worth noting that this was the 11th season Pujols has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting -- and he's only been in the league for 11 years. He's won MVP three times and finished in the top five 10 of those 11 years.

Kemp took home 10 first-place votes, with Fielder and Upton getting one each. Braun had the rest. Only Braun, Kemp and Fielder received second-place votes.

Braun is locked up with Milwaukee through the 2020 season, as he signed a five-year extension in April. The 2011 MVP award will join the 2007 Rookie of the Year in Braun's trophy case.

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Posted on: November 20, 2011 3:47 pm

Lots of interest in Jonathan Broxton

By Matt Snyder

Former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton appears to be drawing lots of interest on the free agency market. More than 10 teams have requested his medicals and are looking closely at him, reports Jon Heyman of SI.com.

Broxton had a swift fall from grace. At several different points in 2009 and 2010, he was one of the best closers in baseball. He is a two-time All-Star. Through 38 appearances in 2010, he had converted 19 of 21 save opportunities with a 1.93 ERA and 53 strikeouts in just 37 1/3 innings. He had only walked seven. The rest of the season, however, he blew five saves while recording only three. His ERA was 7.20 and he walked more guys (21) than he struck out (20). The bad carried over into 2011, as he was awful through 14 outings before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely.

Closing Time
Broxton had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in September and is expected to be ready for the spring. It's possible his elbow woes were the cause of Broxton's struggles, so if he's now healthy, it's possible he becomes a gem as a cheap free agent. He's certainly worth a one-year contract and should be plenty attractive to teams seeking bullpen help but not willing to go after a big-money target like Heath Bell or Ryan Madson. The Twins come to mind, just as the Reds do. Maybe the Rangers go after him, as Neftali Feliz is ticketed for the starting rotation. The Mets, Blue Jays, Orioles, Angels and Marlins all make sense as well. And we still haven't named more than 10 teams. So it's wide open.

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Posted on: November 19, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 4:31 pm

Mark Cuban isn't interested in buying Braves

Mark Cuban

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Braves aren't for sale, but even if Liberty Media decides to sell, Mark Cuban isn't interested in buying the team.

"I like franchises that need a lot of help," Cuban told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an e-mail on Saturday. "The Braves have a great franchise."

The owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks bid on the Texas Rangers last year and expressed interest in the Cubs in 2009. He recently said he's not interested in paying more than a billion dollars for the Dodgers.

Liberty Media bought the team in 2007 from Time Warner and as part of that agreement must retain ownership until at least the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 11. Forbes magazine valued the Braves at $482 million in March, putting them 13th out of 30 teams. Liberty Media is headquartered in Colorado and locally in Atlanta it is seen as a disinterested owner, the opposite of the "gold old days" when Ted Turner owned the team.

The AJC ran a reader poll asking fans if they'd like to see Cuban buy the team and 95 percent answered yes.

"I'm flattered by the fans' response," Cuban wrote to O'Brien. "While I respect the amazing tradition and history of the Braves, and ATL is a great sports town, it's not a franchise I would pursue."

Dodgers fans were hopeful Cuban would buy their team, but he's balked at the asking price -- but that could be a negotiating tactic. Despite Cuban's interest, there's also the question of whether commissioner Bud Selig would allow the outspoken Cuban in the club of team owners.

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Posted on: November 19, 2011 12:36 pm

Lions' QB Stafford happy for friend Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Although there are plenty of stories written about Cy Young Award winners, rarely are their Little League catchers tracked down and asked about their former ace pitcher. Of course, few Cy Young Award winners have a future NFL starting quarterback as their old catcher.

"It's awesome to have played with a guy growing up and to watch him have that much success," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford told the Detroit Free Press on Friday when asked about his old batterymate, Clayton Kershaw. "I haven't been able to go out and see him. I'd love to. That would be a ton of fun to be able to go out there and see him and watch him pitch. I caught him a bunch of times and played shortstop behind him a bunch of times."

The two grew up in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park, firstling teaming up on the soccer field in second grade and playing soccer, baseball, basketball and football together growing up. Kershaw was also Stafford's center their freshman year at Highland Park High School.

Stafford rented Kershaw a suite at Cowboys Stadium last month when the Lions played in Dallas, but told the Free Press he wouldn't demand a suite at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers put together this video of the two last year:

Kershaw has said Stafford had the better arm when the two were growing up -- and it'd still be quite the competition to see who could fling a ball (any kind) further.

"We always worked well together playing baseball," Kershaw told the Athens Banner-Herald in 2008. "He was a lot better baseball player than I was a football player. He coulda gone to college to play that, no doubt. He always knew what I wanted to throw and he was really good back there, really smart."

However, Stafford quit playing baseball after his sophomore year and Kershaw quit football after his freshman season. With Stafford signing a six-year deal worth $41.7 million after being the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and Kershaw winning the Cy Young at 23, they two probably made the correct decisions.

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 7:45 pm

Dodgers unsure they can re-sign Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Dodgers may have locked up Matt Kemp on Friday, but the prospects for keeping free agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda seem dim.

"I think we're going to have a hard time signing him," general manager Ned Colletti told the Los Angeles Times' Steve Dilbeck.

Related stories

Colletti said he's spoken to Kuroda's agent several times, but let those talks without a feeling of optimism in his chances of re-signing the pitcher.

"We have two issues. One is whether he wants to stay here and the other is whether we can afford to keep him," Colletti said. Colletti added the team's payroll needs to decrease from last season's $113 opening day payroll.

Kuroda was steadfast in his desire to remain a Dodger at the trade deadline last season, keeping him in Los Angeles. The Dodgers had hoped to re-sign Kuroda to a one-year deal, but he could return to his native Japan to play if the Dodgers can't meet his salary demands. Kuroda made $12 million in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA, down from the $15.4 million he made in 2010.

The Dodgers have already spoken to Jeff Francis, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano in an attempt to fill their fifth spot in the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and, presumably, Kuroda. Rookie Nathan Eovaldi is another possibility. 

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:10 pm

Kemp contract: Back-loaded, no no-trade clause

By Matt Snyder

The Los Angeles Dodgers have made their contract extension with MVP candidate Matt Kemp official, and there are a few interesting details on how the contract shakes out. It is for eight years and $160 million, which is obviously an average of $20 million per season. But with the Dodgers still in bankruptcy court, Kemp is only set to make $8 million during the 2012 season (yeah, I know, that's a liberal use of "only").

Here's the salary schedule, via LATimes.com:

2012: $10 million (but $2 million of that is deferred without interest)
2013: $20 million
2014-15: $21 million per season
2016-19: $21.5 million per season

Kemp will turn 35 in the final year of his contract, so this appears to be his one huge payday. Perhaps the most interesting part of this contract is that many of these astronomical deals include no-trade clauses. But Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reported "there does not appear to be a no-trade clause."

Also worth noting is that Kemp agreed to donate $250,000 annually to the Dodgers Dream Foundation throughout the duration of the contract, which totals the exact amount of his $2 million signing bonus.

Kemp, 27, hit .324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBI, 115 runs and 40 stolen bases in 2011. He led the majors in RBI while leading the NL in home runs, runs, OPS-plus and total bases. He also won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and made his first All-Star team.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: November 17, 2011 3:46 pm

Kershaw latest youngster to dazzle

Clayton Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

When it comes to young pitchers and dominating seasons, many of us think back to Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Roger Clemens in 1986 -- but both of those seasons were before 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was born. Kershaw is the youngest Cy Young winner since Gooden in 1985, but he isn't the only player of his age to dominate baseball since Gooden and Clemens.

So, which pitchers age 23 or younger have put together the best pitching seasons since Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988?

• Mark Prior, 2003: In his second season and just 22, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA with an amazing 245 strikeouts for the Cubs. He not only threw 211 1/3 innings during the regular season, he also threw 23 1/3 innings in the postseason, including the infamous Game 6 of the NLCS against the Marlins. Prior finished third in the Cy Young voting behind runaway-winer Eric Gagne, who finished with 55 saves, and San Francisco's Jason Schmidt (17-5, 2.34 ERA). The 2003 season would prove to be the best season of Prior's career. He went just 18-17 with a 4.27 ERA over the next three seasons and has battled injuries and minor leaguers since then.

Felix Hernandez, 2009: The year before winning the Cy Young with a 13-12 record, a 23-year-old Hernandez led the American League with a 19-5 record and also put up a 2.49 ERA. Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2009, losing to the Royals' Zack Greinke. Hernandez went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA as a 24-year-old in 2010. "King" Felix was 14-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 2011, but is still one of baseball's best pitchers.

• Jake Peavy, 2004: Peavy won an ERA title in his third year in the majors, going 15-6 with a 2.27 ERA as a 23-year-old in 2004. That didn't garner him any Cy Young votes -- Roger Clemens claimed his seventh, and final, Cy Young that year. Peavy would win the Cy Young in 2007. 

• Joe Magrane, 1988: As a 23-year-old, Magrane led the National League with a 2.18 ERA, but had just a 5-0 record in 24 starts. The left-hander didn't receive any votes for the Cy Young, but did finish fourth (behind Mark Davis, Mike Scott, Greg Maddux and tied with Orel Hershiser) the next season when he went 18-9. Magrane was never the same after an elbow injury in 1990 and retired in 1996 at 32.

• Carlos Zambrano, 2004: With a 16-8 record and 2.75 ERA, the right-hander finished fifth in Cy Young voting, striking out 188 batters in 209 2/3 innings. Zambrano didn't lead the league in any categories other than hit batters (20), but was otherwise very good. Since then he's had a roller-coaster career, but from age 22-27 he was 91-51 with a 3.39 ERA, making at least 30 starts in each year from 2003-2008.

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Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 4:17 pm

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young Award

Clayton Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw added the National League Cy Young Award to his pitching Triple Crown on Thursday, beating Phillies' right-hander Roy Halladay to win his first Cy Young.

The 23-year-old Kershaw led the National League with 21 wins, a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. He also led the league with a 0.977 WHIP, was named to his first All-Star team and won the Gold Glove -- in all, a pretty good year. He received 27 of the 32 first-place votes in voting done by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Halladay received four first-place votes, while fourth-place finisher Ian Kennedy received the other. Halladay's teammate, Cliff Lee, finished third, but didn't receive a first-place vote.

Halladay, 34, missed out on his third Cy Young Award, winning it in 2010 for the Phillies and in 2003 while in Toronto. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and 208 strikeouts, leading the league with eight complete games. He also led the National League in ERA+ with a 164. ERA+ measures a pitcher's ERA against the league average and takes park factors into effect.

Three Phillies finished in the top fiive, with left-hander Cole Hamels finishing fifth. In all, four Giants received votes, with Tim Lincecum finishing sixth, Matt Cain eighth and Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong tying for 11th with one fifth-place vote each.

In the end, though, it came down to Kershaw and Halladay. Either was a good choice, but Kershaw's Triple Crown may have pushed him over the top. He was one of the bright spots -- along with Matt Kemp -- of a pretty dark year for the Dodgers. Even though Kershaw made his first All-Star team with a 9-4 record and 3.03 ERA in the first half, he won the Cy Young in the second half, when he went 12-2 with a 1.31 ERA. He also dominated at Dodger Stadium, going 12-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 starts at home, with his only home loss coming on April 16, his second home start of the season.

"I always dreamed about playing in the big leagues. I never dreamed about doing anything special in the big leagues. I don't think any kid ever does," Kershaw said. "The people I'm now associated with, just by having this award, is something that I never thought would ever happen."

It is the 10th time a Dodgers pitcher has won the award, joining three-time winner Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Mike Marshall, Fernando Valezuela, Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne. Being left-handed, the comparisons to Koufax have naturally come up, though Kershaw said he was uncomfortable with the comparison.

"I'm still uncomfortable with it. I don't want to have any disrespect for Mr. Koufax. He did it for a long time. He won a lot of awards and he won World Series. He threw no-hitters. Just a lot of things I'm not anywhere close to accomplishing yet," Kershaw said. "I have tremendous respect for him and would never want to ever put myself in the same category as him." 

Previous Cy Young Award winners.

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