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Gastelum: Matt Kemp is MVP (Sept. 15)

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, September 15, 2011

What defines a Most Valuable Player?

Some define it as the best player in the sport. That is the standard thought when you hear the term “MVP”, but is this the right thought? If that were the case, Alex Rodriguez would have 10 MVPs and there wouldn’t be any anticipation year-in and year-out.

So it seems as though being the most famous or popular player isn’t the only factor taken into defining what an MVP is — that qualification is reserved for an All-Star selection.

It is also clear the MVP doesn’t just go to the player with the most talent in baseball, as if hitting a 95-mph pitch with a stick in your hand isn’t enough.

But if you think about the players with the most talent in baseball, you look at five-tool players — the ones that possess a cannon for an arm, hit for average, hit for power, steal bases and cover the field defensively better than anyone else. That would mean every year only Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holiday, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton would have a chance to win and that obviously isn’t the case.

Yet another factor is how “valuable” is a player to a team. If you take the term Most Valuable Player literally, Albert Pujols would win every year. What player in baseball is more valuable to his team than Pujols is to the Cardinals? Just imagine where the Cards would be without Pujols’ presence (although you may not have to wait long to see that).

We are also witnessing this effect in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning should win every year in a literal sense, especially this year just to prevent Kerry Collins from throwing another pass while he should be applying his Just-for-Men.

Therefore, it seems that the MVP is awarded to the player with just the right mixture of these factors — and let us not forget about the need for a statistically good year — that goes without saying. So who should win this year’s MVP then?

Matt Kemp.

This Rude Boy has given us one of major-league baseball’s best seasons statistically when compared to his peers. Kemp, 25, is currently in the top five in the National League in every major category including third in home runs (33), third in RBI (109), fourth in batting average (.316), second in stolen bases (38) and first in outfield assists (11). Just looking at these five-tool stats compared to the rest of the National League, it is obvious Kemp wields one of baseball’s most talent-rich arsenals. Check one category off the list.

Kemp has also gotten recognition as baseball’s best player over the last year, most notably by Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes. Check notability off the list.

But next, the question remains: how important is he to the Dodgers?

The All-Star center fielder leads the Dodgers in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, walks, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, outfield assists and has yet to miss a game in over two years. Would the Dodgers even be hovering around .500 and in third place in the NL West in the midst of their most controversial season in the franchise’s proud history? I would be willing to put down Frank McCourt’s six houses on that answer.

But the question always remains: Does an MVP need to be on a playoff team? To know the answer to that question, one would have to look at the other candidates.

Having two players in the race hurts the Brewers’ MVP chances. Prince Fielder is not the Brewers’ most valuable player because that title belongs to Ryan Braun, and vice versa. Their collective effort has led to the Brewers’ first place standing, and thus it would be difficult to choose either. The same goes for Ryan Howard.

There is a reason why A-Rod has only won two MVPs in his seven statistically remarkable seasons with the Yankees — because his effort is diluted by the great years the rest of the Yankees are having.

Meanwhile, Jose Reyes would look like the likely MVP choice, if he didn’t miss games due to a new hamstring strain every other day. Tulowitzki, too, is having a great year, but just not quite up to par with Kemp’s numbers.

So if the voters get it right, we should see the MVP and Cy Young in the Dodgers’ hands. Too bad I ran out of room to write about Clayton Kershaw.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.

Contact Andrew at agastel1@nd.edu