By Ross Newhan
Yes, Matt Kemp came within one home run of becoming only the fifth major league player to hit 40 and steal 40 bases in the same season--a remarkable accomplishment when viewed in that historical prism.
His overal statistics in a true breakthrough summer earned him the Hank Aaron Award as the National League's top hitter, and had I been a member of the Baseball Writers Assn. committee selecting the National League's Most Valuable Player, the Dodger center fielder would have received my first place vote--and not on a partisan basis, or so I would like to think.
Yet, those same overall statistics, when measured against those of Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder Ryan Bruan, were not so different or overwhelming as to disparage the committee's selection of Braun for the MVP. Braun received 20 or 32 first place votes, basically because his Brewers won the NL's Central Division title while the Dodgers finished a distant third in the West. Based on their team's performance, you would have to say they each received the right award--Kemp the Hank Aaron and Braun the MVP.
Consider: Kemp led the league in homers and RBI (126) while batting .324 to Braun's .332, 111 RBI, 33 homers, 33 steals and league leading .994 combination of on-base and slugging percentage.
As it is, Kemp has already had an impressive off-season with the Aaron Award, $160 million contract and knowledge that a new owner should eventually lift the Dodgers into the same post-season environment that Braun has enjoyed the last two years.
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Given the number of lockouts and strikes that I covered in close to 40 years on the baseball beat it is difficult to believe that the five year bargaining agreement announced Tuesday will stretch the industry's current baseball peace to 21 years, a measure of how well owners and players are doing financially and how willing they are too compromise on complicated issues, a message that should be heard by Congress.
The new agreement is particularly newsworthy what with the pioneering adoption on a limited basis of HGH testing, confirmation that the post-season will now include two wild card teams in each league and a one game play-in between them with the winner advancing in each league, a new and complicated system that owners hope will reduce payouts in the amateur draft (and to foreign players), a new and complicated system governing contracts to free agents, increased use of replays and, amid even more, a change in the arbitration process involving two year players, increasing the percentage of eligible players from 17 to 22, a goal the union has been seeking for several years.
Commissioner Bud Selig absorbs much abuse at times, but baseball is now at the forefront of drug testing among professional sports, and its labor relations is far ahead of any other sport.
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More than 20 individuals and/or groups have notified Blackstone Advisory Partners, the firm handling the sale of trhe Dodgers, that they are interested in purchasing the club according to multiple sources who can't be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the record.