The 2011 Major League Baseball season is nearing an end, yet it's anyone's guess as to who will win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
While Justin Upton was the hot name on the block as recently as two weeks ago, his name has slowly faded from discussion for the prestigious award. The same goes for St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who may have had a case if the Cards were able to magically secure a playoff spot. With two late-game losses the last two nights, both the Cards and Pujols have fallen out of the race.
When it's all said and done, the National League MVP has turned into a race of only two horses, both of whom have their teams heading in different directions come October.
Matt Kemp has put together a season for the ages and now sits only .003 batting average points from the Triple Crown. That would be an amazing feat, but does it make him MVP?
This is the tricky part of the MVP equation. Many people these days seem to forget the difference between a player being "valuable" and a player being "outstanding." If there were a Most Outstanding Player Award for the player who has the best statistical season, there is no doubt Kemp's name would be inscribed on the plaque.
The issue here, however, is that there are rare cases—with this being one of them—that the best player of the season isn't necessarily the most valuable.
Kemp has the Los Angeles Dodgers at 79-77 and in third place in the NL West. Fans will make the argument that without Kemp, the team would surely be in last place. I agree with that notion 100 percent, but you're talking about two cases where his team wouldn't even sniff October!
Who deserves to be named NL Most
If being the Most Valuable Player means bringing your team from last place to third place, then we might as well throw out the award altogether. The luster behind the award and the true meaning of it appear to be all but gone.
I would sympathize with people who claim Kemp to be MVP if there were no other viable candidates around the league, but in no way is that the case.
Ryan Braun proved just how valuable he is to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday evening, hitting a mammoth three-run homer to center field in the eighth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and ultimately giving the team its first division title since 1982.
Both Kemp and Braun are the only two NL players in the 30-30 club this season, with both players leading the league in pretty much every statistical category. They both have more than 30 doubles, 100 runs and 100 RBI, yet Kemp has played in 11 more games than Braun this season.
The most glaring and obvious factor, however, is the fact that Braun's team has 92 wins—compared to the 77 of Kemp's Dodgers—accompanied by a divisional crown and a trip to the playoffs.
While Kemp has been minimally better statistically this season, where Braun has led the Brewers should trump those margins by a mile.
Jeffrey Beckmann is a MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Jeffrey on his new Twitter account for all of his latest work. You can also hear him each Friday at 1 p.m. EST on B/R Baseball Roundtable.