Matt Kemp Posts Better Numbers, But Ryan Braun Brings Home the Hardware

November 23, 2011 – 9:15 am by Eric Schmoldt

Well done, Major League Baseball MVP voters. Well done. While there was certainly discussion to be had this year, the voters for baseball’s MVPs got it right. On the American League side, the argument continued to be whether a pitcher should be able to win the award or not. The answer, of course, is ‘Yes,’ and Detroit’s Justin Verlander rightfully won the MVP.

On Tuesday, the National League version was announced and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun won his first. Braun readily admits that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp posted a better individual season than he did. But Braun’s Brewers won their division and made it to the National League Championship Series. Kemp was watching on TV the whole time. Kudos to the voters for valuing the term “valuable.”

Ryan Braun joined WSSP in Milwaukee with The Bill Michaels Show to discuss whether he was expecting to win, a call he placed to Matt Kemp, being the first winner of Jewish descent since Sandy Koufax, the season that he and the Brewers put together, why he thrives in the most key moments, what else he has left to do at this point, the free agent process with Prince Fielder and why he chose to stay in Milwaukee long-term.

Were you expecting to win?:

“It wasn’t expected at all. I really had no idea what to expect. I certainly wasn’t going to make any assumptions. I honestly assumed it was going to be a really close vote. … I was pretty anxious to find out.”

Did you speak to Matt Kemp?:

“Yeah, I did speak to him. He really did have a phenomenal year. If he had won the award, I couldn’t have argued with it by any means. If Prince Fielder had won the award, I couldn’t have argued with it by any means. So, I just feel so fortunate to have ended up winning. Certainly there were other deserving candidates as well.”

Do you know that your the first player of Jewish descent to win since Sandy Koufax?:

“I did not know that. It really is amazing. It’s pretty special.”

Talk about your season in general:

“For us as a team, it was a special year. It was the first year the Milwaukee Brewers had won their division in 29 years, the first time that we won a postseason series in 29 years. I think those were the two biggest factors in me ultimately winning the MVP. If you honestly assess my season versus Matt Kemp’s, I think Matt Kemp probably had a better year than me, individually, but I was fortunate enough to be on a better team, have an opportunity to be in some big moments and had a chance to help my team ultimately win the division, win a postseason series.”

What is it that makes you thrive in big moments?:

“I think, for everybody, when you’re a little kid, you dream of the opportunity to hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the World Series. … That’s what I kind of always envisioned growing up, was the big moments. It wasn’t necessarily about the grind of a 162-game season. It’s an opportunity to pick your team up, to pick up the city that you play in and the organization that you play for in the big moments.”

Short of winning the World Series, what else can you do at this point?:

“I think the goal is always to continue to get better. The biggest goal is to win a World Series. We fell short of that this year, but we got close. We were really close. … Ultimately, that’s my goal. The longer you play this game, the more you realize that the most rewarding experiences you have are team-oriented. Individually, this is amazing, without a doubt, an incredible accomplishment. But at the end of your career, as an athlete, the thing you look back on is the experience you had as a group of men, as a team, and ultimately the greatest experience you can have is winning a championship.”

Have you talked with Prince at all with hopes of convincing him that if it comes down to nickels and dimes that he should return to Milwaukee?:

“To be honest with you, I don’t think I’m in a position to give him advice. … He knows we love him; he knows the city of Milwaukee loves him. I think he truly enjoyed his experience there; I know his family enjoyed their experience there. But he’s put himself in an amazing position. … I don’t think, by any means, the Brewers have been crossed off the list.”

With the position that you’ve put yourself in, you could be one of the highest-paid players in baseball. Why did you decide to stick with Milwaukee long-term?:

“I think there’s so many things that factor into actually making that decision. The more time I spent in Milwaukee, the more I’ve truly enjoyed it. The fans have been incredibly supportive of me, of our entire team. They’re incredibly passionate. The more time I’ve spent in Miller Park, the more I realize how good we really have it. … The entire management group has done an incredible job of putting us in a position where I know we’re going to be competitive every year. And, ultimately, the city and the fanbase has been so loyal to me that the least I can do is return that favor. I’m excited and honored to hopefully be able to spend my entire career as a Milwaukee Brewer.”

Listen to Ryan Braun on WSSP in Milwaukee here

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