Everybody already knows about the chase for the National League triple crown. Kemp is currently out front of the league with 120 RBI, tied with Albert Pujols for the home run lead with 37 and is nine points off the pace for the batting title.
The last time there was a triple crown winner was 1967, and Super Bowl I had just taken place. There hasn’t been a National League triple crown since Joe “Ducky” Medwick accomplished it back in 1937.
The difficult thing about the triple crown is you can’t just be very good in each of the categories; you have to be the absolute best in each of them. Jim Thome might have 600 career home runs, but he never made a bid for the triple crown. Neither did Ichiro Suzuki during his perennial march of 200-hit seasons.
Taking it a step further, Kemp is on the verge of accomplishing something else that’s only been done twice in the past 75 years; and that feat is finishing among the top two in the league in both home runs and stolen bases. The other two players who accomplished the feat were Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
Mays and Aaron represent some of the highest circles of baseball royalty. Aaron is the popular choice for fans as baseball’s true home run king; and Mays is ranked fifth all-time with 660 homers. Aaron was a 21-time All-Star, while Mays is general hailed as baseball’s best all-around player in history. Toss in Kemp’s name into the mix, and realize just how select that company really is.
Along with being tied for the league lead in home runs, Kemp is tied for second place with 40 stolen bases. With just a series of games left to play, the odds are favorable that he could accomplish this feat and cement his name alongside Mays and Aaron. That’s not to say he’d automatically be on par with them, it just speaks to the difficulty and the rarity of such a well-balanced set of skills.
Similar to the triple crown, the feat wouldn’t just be about displaying good speed and power. The 30/30 club is full of guys who showed the ability to steal bases and hit home runs in the same season. For Kemp, this would indicate that he was among the very best in the league at both skills.
Considering that it’s only been done twice in 75 years, it would be a magnificent achievement for Kemp. The fact it’s only been done by a pair of the greatest players in history just makes it all the more impressive.
Without the fanfare and press coverage, Kemp has been quietly having his season. While Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was stealing headlines, Kemp was swiping bags. While Bud Selig was slamming the door on cable deals, Kemp was slamming out home runs.
If Kemp finishes strong, baseball might remember the 2011 Dodgers for something other than a precarious ownership.
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