MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Management

Don Mattingly (B+)

Sometimes, I think we underestimate just how bad of a situation the 2011 Dodgers were for a rookie manager to get shoved into. As if getting handed the reins to a team with no managerial experience wasn’t tough enough, Don Mattingly was lucky enough to finally get his dream job on a team that suffered through one of the worst off-field seasons of any club I can remember in decades. That’s on top of an on-field collection that featured two superstars but far more dead space than bright spots.

That’s a team that could have collapsed, and not just in a traditional “we’re going to lose 98 games” sort of way, but in a “we’ve totally given up and we’re going to be an embarrassment on and off the field” sort of way. You don’t have to squint to hard to envision a scenario where we’d have been calling for Mattingly’s head at the end of the worst season in the long history of the Dodger franchise.

But it didn’t happen. The team was awful for the first few months, losing games and being uninteresting while doing so and losing nearly the entire bullpen to injury, but we never questioned their effort. Save for Andre Ethier’s usual outbursts, we never heard about problems in the clubhouse, and from our external view, Mattingly was able to keep the club focused on the field and not in the courtroom. By the end of September, as the team suddenly turned into a second-half force, I had no choice but to praise Mattingly’s performance:

Now let’s be clear, because we talked about this last week when discussing Jeff Pentland vs Dave Hansen: with the exception of the new-and-improved James Loney, this team largely turned around because they turned over their roster. They had more Juan Rivera & second takes of Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon, as opposed to hundreds of plate appearances wasted on the gimpy and useless like Juan Uribe, Dioner Navarro, Marcus Thames, and a less-than-healthy Ethier. A manager, no matter how beloved or despised, can only have so much impact on a game. But had things been allowed to fall apart even more than they had in the middle of the season, there might not even have been the opportunity to rebound.

No, he hasn’t been perfect, because this is the same guy who has killed us with bunts, used Mike MacDougal in big spots, and who once chose Juan Castro over Sands and others to pinch-hit with the bases loaded, which also meant Kershaw came out too early and Lance Cormier had to be used to blow the game. Then again, what manager is? Perhaps I’m colored because I was very vocally disliked Joe Torre, but complaints with managerial decisions seem to be cut by a factor of five this year.

Don Mattingly isn’t going to win the NL Manager of the Year award, nor should he, yet he probably will get some back-end support, and it’s well deserved. If a year ago at this time, nearly to the day, we were worried that with everything else the Dodgers had going on, they’d also have to deal with an inexperienced manager no one could count on, now we’ve seen that Mattingly is capable of keeping the players focused and working, no matter what kind of garbage is coming from the outside. In a season of small victories and big defeats, that’s one to be proud of.

Two months later, my opinion hasn’t changed. Mattingly’s not the perfect manager, just because nobody who likes bunts as much as he does could be. But in a trying season, he proved masterful at keeping the clubhouse focused and the players under control; his (and Davey Lopes’) impact on Kemp alone should be worth a raise. Considering how little I thought of Torre and how worried we were about Mattingly to start the year, 2011 was a successful one from the bench. Now let’s hope that Mattingly spends his winter checking out run expectancy charts, can we?

Ned Colletti (D)

(As a reminder, this covers only Ned’s moves from the end of the 2010 season to the end of the 2011 season, so it’s not the place to complain that this year’s club had Dioner Navarro instead of Carlos Santana, or that Juan Rivera was re-signed for far too much.)

Let’s start with the positives, because there honestly weren’t many. Aaron Miles, Mike MacDougal, and Dana Eveland were the kind of decent zero-cost, mild-return scrap-heap pickups that Colletti does a good enough job of finding every year, and swapping out Marcus Thames for Juan Rivera at basically no cost worked out wonderfully, at least at first. Getting a decent reliever in Blake Hawksworth for the brutal Ryan Theriot was solid, though somewhat marked down because Colletti had acquired Theriot in the first place, and while trading away Rafael Furcal he picked up an interesting if somewhat fringy prospect in Alex Castellanos. Oh, and he signed Chad Billingsley to a reasonably priced three-year deal, which was nice, and even though it completely failed to work out, trying to go overboard in pitching depth by signing Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla to round out the rotation was a clever idea, at least until Garland let it slip that other teams didn’t like his medical reports.

Got that? Good. Now let’s recall how we felt about the 2010-11 offseason back in Februrary:

I’ll be the first to say that this hasn’t exactly been the brightest offseason around here. We’ve been dismayed at the seemingly excessive contracts handed out to Matt Guerrier, Rod Barajas, and Juan Uribe. We’ve cringed at the impending disastrophe of the JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr. situation in left field, wondered why they couldn’t find a righty partner for Andre Ethier, been disappointed over the inability to upgrade on Casey Blake, and resigned ourselves to another year of mediocrity from James Loney. We’ve been terrified at both how there’s no good option for a #2 hitter and how the lineup as a whole seems to have been assembled with no regard for OBP. We’ve worried about atrocious outfield defense and considered what things may have looked like if the near-misses for aging vets Aubrey Huff , Michael Young, and AJ Pierzynski hadn’t been misses at all. We’ve fretted that minor-league deals or not, historically poor players like Juan Castro and Aaron Miles are in the mix and just may make the team, and we’ve wondered when and if proven young talents like Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley would see long-term deals.

With the exception of the fact that Billingsley did end up getting signed, how much of what worried us before the season no longer seems accurate after it? Not a whole lot; we expected most of those moves to work poorly, and they largely did. Besides, that list doesn’t even include the fact that Colletti had actually picked up the team half of Scott Podsednik‘s 2011 option, which Podsednik miraculously declined, or that Dioner Navarro was handed a job that he in no way deserved.

And that’s what really bothers me the most, you know. It’s one thing when a well-thought-out plan doesn’t pan out, because that’s happened to every general manager in the history of baseball, and it’s happened to all of us in our day-to-day lives… and it’s another thing when a collection of moves which you know aren’t going to work don’t work. We knew a lineup full of low-OBP guys would have trouble scoring runs. We knew Blake couldn’t stay healthy. We knew Ethier wasn’t going to hit lefties. We knew going after Huff was an awful idea, and consider it a bullet dodged that it didn’t happen. We knew Navarro wasn’t better than A.J. Ellis. We knew Thames and Jay Gibbons were not the solution in left field. We knew that Guerrier wasn’t going to be a difference-maker in the bullpen. I’ll grant that we didn’t exactly know that Uribe would be quite this bad in year one, but we knew that he wasn’t worth the contract. Those things were almost certainly not going to work, and they didn’t; pressures from the McCourt divorce aside, these are the reasons why the Dodgers were such a lousy squad through the first few months of the year.

I basically said as much in June, as things really looked bleak

The point is, this was always a flawed team, one that few thought was going to head anywhere unless everything worked out completely perfectly. It hasn’t, and while the depths we’ve seen lately may have been deeper than expected from a team we thought would be at least competitive, little here has been a complete surprise. For once, that’s not entirely Frank McCourt’s fault. Off-field distractions aside, the Dodgers were one of the more active teams in free agency last winter, and though the payroll isn’t to the levels it really ought to be, it’s also not a $50m shoestring budget like other teams have to deal with. This is the team that Ned Colletti put together, and it hasn’t been pretty.

Once the season started, Colletti’s main role was filling in holes of a roster decimated by injury and looking around to see what was out there if Hiroki Kuroda accepted a trade. Kuroda didn’t, but credit to Colletti for at least acknowledging the team was in sell mode this year. Of course, the former PR man did have his usual “foot-in-mouth” moment early in the season, publicly stating Jonathan Broxton was out as the closer weeks before that was actually true. And then out of nowhere came the Trayvon Robinson deal, just seconds before the July 31 deadline, which was so universally reviled that it turned Colletti into a national punchline. (Okay, more of a punchline.) My thoughts on the matter are well-known, and I’m not going to repeat them all here… but okay, I wrote a ton about it, so here’s two paragraphs:

That means that fans – not just Dodger fans, this happens on all teams – tend to overvalue their own players, and even yesterday on Twitter I saw people groaning about losing Robinson before even knowing who was coming back. I think that’s short-sighted, because I have no problem with trading prospects. A solid farm system exists to provide value, and while the obvious outcome is “good young player comes up to join the big club”, value can also come from “good young player is traded for immediate impact veteran or another good young player”. Depending on the circumstances, trading a top prospect is not always a bad thing – as long as you get value back. If the Dodgers are deep in outfielders and short in catching, than the idea of trading Robinson for an impact catching prospect is not a terrible plan.

The problem here is that few think Tim Federowicz is an impact catcher, and many doubt he can hit enough to even be a viable major league starter. This isn’t a new theme, because so far in Ned Colletti’s tenure, he’s often spent prospects to get players who were not of equal value. I didn’t mind trading Santana when we all thought Russell Martin would be here for 5-7 more years; I hated trading him for two months of a good-but-not-great third baseman. (If Santana had been sent to Cleveland for CC Sabathia that year rather than Blake, I guarantee you there wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same outcry.) I didn’t mind the idea of trading James McDonald & Andrew Lambo, two players unlikely to be stars, but the problem was a team that had no business going for it in 2010 trading them for an elderly reliever who wasn’t going to make a difference. This is why the Robinson trade stinks so bad, because you’re trading a top-5 Dodger prospect for three guys who are barely top-25 Red Sox prospects.

And even though Robinson had an uncertain debut in Seattle and may never pan out, that’s still the point – the idea that you likely could have gotten more in return for him than what they did. Even if neither Robinson or Federowicz become anything, it doesn’t feel as though Robinson’s value was utilized fully. Though we’ve never doubted his passion or humanity – made clear in a rare August interview – we’ve also never doubted that one of the brightest moments of his tenure was that flickering hope that the Cubs might actually be interested in bringing him aboard.

But Ned is what Ned is, and he’s been around long enough that it’s foolish to hold out hope that he can change. If anything, watch the rush for a new owner closely, since new owners often like to bring in their own people.


That wraps up this year’s edition of the season in review series. Thanks as always for reading and indulging the need to fill up down time in the fall months with such a long series.

Expect The Arbitration Deadline to Pass Quietly Today

Tonight at midnight eastern represents the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to free agents who are no longer under team control. You might remember this story from such times as “why would the Dodgers pass up the likelihood of a first round draft pick for Randy Wolf and/or Orlando Hudson out of fear they might accept a one-year deal?”  There’s no such drama likely to happen this year, simply because of the circumstances involved.

When the offseason started, the Dodgers had ten free agents:

…though that has already dwindled to seven, as Rivera has returned and Carroll & Barajas have signed elsewhere. Only Barajas & Kuroda are ranked free agents, in theory making the Dodgers eligible to receive draft pick compensation for their losses if they were offered arbitration, but it’s sort of irrelevant; the terms of Kuroda’s contract state that he cannot be offered arbitration, and Barajas already signed with Pittsburgh earlier this month, gaining the Dodgers an extra draft pick. While the new CBA substantially changes most of these rules, most of that starts next winter; this winter is something of a transitional period, where several Type A free agents have had that status removed, none of whom are relevant to the Dodgers anyway.

Otherwise, there’s no reason to offer salary arbitration to anyone, since there would be no draft compensation and not a single one of the non-Kuroda six is completely assured of even picking up a major-league deal in 2012, though it’s likely that someone will be suckered in by Miles or MacDougal. (Probably the Dodgers, right? Right?)

Let’s Dig Into the New CBA

Though I wouldn’t have believed it just a few days ago, the big news of the day was not the announcement of the NL MVP Award, which saw Matt Kemp lose out to Ryan Braun. Far more important in the grand scheme of things was the announcement that the players union and MLB came to an agreement on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, a remarkably peaceful process that looks even better compared to what the NFL and NBA have gone through this year. By the end of the agreement, baseball will have had over twenty years of uninterrupted labor peace, assuming you choose to ignore the acrimonious 2002 talks that averted a crisis at the last minute.

Unfortunately, most of the mainstream news accounts of this are choosing to focus on the inclusion of HGH testing, which is just about the least important facet of the new agreement. Most fans won’t realize the staggering amount of changes that this is going to have on the draft and amateur scouting, not all of them positive, and it’s important for both you and I that these changes are fully understood. I won’t go through the entirety of the new CBA – it’s lengthy, and it’s all right here if you choose to peruse it – so let’s pick the hot items and play our favorite game, “Is It Good, or Is It Stupid?”

There are no longer ranked free agents under the new CBA. Type As, Type Bs and the Elias system are history.

Good. Very good. No longer will we have to worry about our team signing a mediocre veteran (I’m thinking about you, 2009 Orlando Hudson) to a one-year deal and having to wave goodbye to a first round draft pick for the privilege. It helps the players, too, since good-but-not-great role players who somehow became Type As won’t have to see their market value absolutely destroyed by teams who might like to sign them but don’t want to lose the pick. Instead, draft pick compensation will rely on whether teams offer their free agents a one-year deal at a pre-determined price, widely reported to be $12.4m. For top-flight free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, making such an offer is a no-brainer; for the majority of the free agent class who would never get such consideration, they will not have draft-pick compensation tied to them. If you sign a player under that offer, you give up your first round pick, unless it’s a top-10 choice, which would be protected.

MLB will announce by March 1 whether playoffs will expand in 2012 or in 2013. Commissioner Bud Selig says he’s hopeful of expanding playoffs next year. The Astros are moving to the American League in 2013 to accomodate a more balanced divisional setup.

We knew this already, but still worth noting. I’m mostly ambivalent to the whole thing.

  • The sides added heavy restrictions on draft spending. Each club has a spending limit for the amateur draft that varies depending on when the club is scheduled to make its first ten selections. Bonuses after the tenth round don’t count, as long as they’re under $100K. Teams will face limits in the $4.5-11.5MM range, according to Jon Heyman of (on Twitter).
  • Teams that spend more than 5% over-slot on the draft will face a 75% tax. Teams that go over slot by 5-10% face a 75% tax and the loss of a first rounder. Teams that go over slot by 10-15% face a 100% tax and the loss of a first and second rounder. Teams that exceed slot by 15% or more face a 100% tax and the loss of first rounders in the next two drafts. This set of rules will also reduce draft spending significantly, a bonus for owners.
  • There will be no more MLB deals for draft picks.

Stupid. Here’s the part that you’re not going to hear a lot about on SportsCenter, but you should, because it has the potential to completely change the face of the game. The amateur draft (and international signings, which we’ll get to in a minute) is the one area where small-market teams really had the ability to outspend their big-market competitors. For years, MLB has been trying to put in place a hard slotting system, and if this isn’t it, it’s the next closest thing. If you’re a low-income team not close to winning, like for example the Pirates, you’re now being told that no, you can’t give $8m to Gerrit Cole, or $5m to Josh Bell (no, not that one), or six-figure bonuses in rounds that usually see five-figure bonuses in order to buy players away from college. If you do, that basically ends your entire draft right there. For small-market teams unable to compete on the free-agent market, they’re basically getting the equivalent of Jimmy Rollins in the picture at right.

Oh, sure, it’s risky to pay millions to teens. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, the money goes down the toilet, and that’s life. But when it does? It works out to a level you just can’t replicate on the free market. You think the Dodgers regret that $2.3m bonus they gave to Clayton Kershaw? Ask the Rays how they feel about the $3m bonus they gave to Evan Longoria, and on and on. Millions of dollars to a draft pick might seem like a lot, but when you consider how huge they can pay off while teams are giving out $5m/year to every middling veteran middle infielder they can find, it starts to make a lot more sense fiscally.

And that’s the whole point, of course. The player’s union looks out for the players currently in the union, not the poor Dominican who may or may not pan out. Diverting money away from drafting and putting it back to the major-league payroll can only serve to increase salaries, which is exactly what the union wants and exactly what we’re seeing this offseason. It’s two-faced to say that you must spend, but you can’t spend what you like in the most cost-effective way possible to improve your team, so since teams aren’t simply allowed to sit on their revenue-sharing money and not put it back in the team, this is partially why guys like Clint Barmes end up with $12m.

It gets worse. Less money available to spend on the draft likely means less talent in the pipeline, because two-sport stars or those with strong college commitments will be that much more difficult to buy away to baseball. Even just this afternoon, Red Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs admitted that he would likely have gone to Auburn to play football if the Red Sox weren’t able to meet his asking price, which they probably couldn’t have under the new rules. Does baseball look better when Zach Lee, Bubba Starling, and maybe even a Matt Kemp have chosen to play other sports because they don’t think the money is right in baseball? Just look at the most recent draft, where the lowly Nationals were crowing that they were able to sign all four of their pricy picks – Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, & Matt Purke - to join a system that already has Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Under the new system, that’s highly unlikely to happen since they wouldn’t be able to fit in all four, and that’s not good for the Nationals or for baseball.

But hey, as long as Juan Uribe can get that $21m, right?

  • Low-revenue teams obtain additional draft picks via lottery. The ten clubs with the lowest revenues and the ten clubs in the smallest revenues are eligible to win one of six draft choice that will be added after the first round. Teams’ chances of winning the lottery will depend on their winning percentage in the previous season. 
  • The teams that don’t win additional picks and all other teams that qualify under the revenue sharing plan will be eligible for a second lottery for six more picks after the second round. Again, teams’ chances of winning the lottery will depend on their winning percentage in the previous season. 

In theory, this is great, more picks for lousy teams… until you remember that the draft cap is now in place, so what you really have is “more picks for teams who might not have the cap room to sign them.” Interestingly enough, these lottery picks can be traded, though regular picks still cannot.

  • Each team faces an equal spending limit for 2012-13. Following the 2012-13 year, clubs will face different spending restrictions depending on their winning percentage (teams that win less can spend more). Teams that exceed the spending limit from 2012-13 and 2013-14 face a 75% tax if they exceed the limit by up to 5%. If they exceed the limit by 5-10%, they pay the 75% tax and lose the right to provide more than one player with a bonus worth more than $500K in the next signing period. If they exceed the limit by 10-15%, they face a 100% tax and are prevented from signing any player for $500K or more in the next signing period. If teams exceed the limit by 15% or more, they face a 100% tax and lose the right to spend $250K on any player in the next signing period. 
  • From 2014-15 on penalties will increase if a worldwide draft isn’t in place.
  • Every team will have $2.9MM to spend on international bonuses this offseason, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. Eventually the limits will be in the $1.8-5MM range, according to Passan. Starting in 2013-14, teams will be able to trade money from their spending allowance for international players, according to Passan (all Twitter links). However, teams can only boost their original spending limit by 50% through trades

This section about international players is very similar to the damage done to draft-eligible players above, except possibly even worse. A $2.9m limit on bonuses! As Buster Olney notes, the Rangers spent $17.6m in the last year alone on international signings, with the Reds at $28.6m since 2008. Like the draft, the international arena is the perfect place to gamble on talent, because even at bonus prices that run into the millions, one payoff can often make up for ten busts. And again like the draft, this risks turning off players from poorer countries who see baseball as a way out. You’d think that with such a small spending limit, the top players will eat that up quickly, leaving little for the mid-tier players who might then decide to turn to soccer, basketball, or something else.

On the other hand, McCourt’s Dodgers have fallen so far being in international signing that this could actually help them. 

Blood testing for HGH will not be occur during the season without reasonable suspicion. ESPN’s Buster Olney says (on Twitter) that offseason testing will begin next winter, 2012-2013.
Olney also mentions that players will be tested in Spring Training “to determine energy levels” after testing, then the results will be discarded. The two sides will then determine how to proceed (all Twitter links).

Good. I mean, testing is better than not testing, but ultimately, who cares. People have this idea that you chug some HGH and turn into Pop-eye, and it’s simply not true.

Instant replay will be expanded to include fair/foul plays and “trap” plays, subject to discussions between MLB and the umpires.

Good. Very good! It’s not as far as it needs to be, but it’s progress in the right direction.

The signing deadline for drafted players moves up roughly a month, to mid-July.

Good. This is a small item that makes a lot of sense. For years, we’ve had to live with the sham of knowing players had come to an agreement, yet not allowed to actually sign because MLB didn’t want slot-breaking deals to inflate the market. (Which is so, so stupid.) Alternatively, you’d have agents taking negotiations right up to the deadline in an attempt to create leverage. This allows more of an opportunity for players to hit the field in their first year, and also allows for draftees to be included in the next year’s trading season, avoiding situations like this year’s where everyone knew Drew Pomeranz was headed to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez, but no one could say it because it hadn’t been a full year since he signed.

The deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players is now December 2nd.

This pushes up the Dodger decision on James Loney, which makes sense. No need to keep the player or the team hanging any longer than needed.

So while there’s a lot of good things here - in addition to what’s noted, there’s also an increased ban on tobacco, a move towards safer helmets, and mandatory counseling for players arrested for drunk driving – the new restrictions on the amateur draft and international bonuses could have repercussions that affect the game negatively for years to come. Of course, both sides come out proclaiming that they’re winners; the owners get to cut down on the dollars they have to commit towards unknown (to them) young players, and the union gets to have money reallocated to the big-league (and dues-paying) veteran.

Good for them? Maybe. But bad for us, and bad for the young players who didn’t have a voice in this negotiation – and may choose to bypass baseball altogether.

Matt Kemp Loses MVP, Given Extra Draft Pick in Lottery Round

I hate to admit that this feels somewhat overshadowed by all of the collective bargaining ridiculousness which has dropped over the last hour (and I’ll get to that separately), but as we basically expected, Ryan Braun has defeated Matt Kemp for the MVP Award. I stand by my feeling that this is basically because Milwaukee made the playoffs and the Dodgers did not, thus somehow making Braun a more “valuable” player, but let’s not forget that Braun did have a fantastic season and actually did top Kemp in wOBA. He’s a worthy winner, and this doesn’t diminish Kemp’s season by even a little in my eyes.

Here’s the top ten results:
1. Ryan Braun 388 (20)
2. Matt Kemp 332 (10)
3. Prince Fielder 229 (1)
4. Justin Upton 214 (1)
5. Albert Pujols 166
6. Joey Votto 135
7. Lance Berkman 118
8. Troy Tulowitzki 69
9. Roy Halladay 52
10. Ryan Howard

With the exception of Fielder over Upton, the top eight seem fine to me, with little to complain about. That said, I have to laugh at the idea that Halladay got more MVP support than Clayton Kershaw… despite losing to Kershaw in the Cy Young balloting. Kershaw finished 12, though at least one voter picked him as high as fifth. Also, Ryan Howard getting any support at all is ludicrous, with one writer choosing him fourth, but even I won’t spend too much time whining about the tenth-place finisher on a flawed ballot.

Congratulations to both Braun and Kemp. Now let’s work on finding out who those six writers were who didn’t choose Kemp first or second, shall we?

Matt Kemp Probably Isn’t Going to Win the MVP, and That’s Okay

At 2pm ET / 11am PT on Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the winner of the 2011 NL MVP, and that winner is most likely going to be Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. We’ll all be quite upset about the fact that Matt Kemp didn’t win the award we all believe he deserves, arguing that it’s unfair to penalize Kemp for being surrounded by an inferior supporting cast while Braun had the luxury of playing with teammates like Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and John Axford, and we’ll gripe that the writers don’t quite understand what the term “valuable” means.

I’m here to say that’s okay.

No matter what happens, Kemp had an absolutely fantastic season, one of the best in Dodger history. Do we really need that to be validated by the writers, some of whom hardly still follow baseball and many of whom probably don’t stay up late enough to see past the third inning of most Dodger games? It’d be nice to see Kemp get the award, but we’ve long known how fantastically flawed this process is; if you need any further proof of that, look no further than the fact that Kemp and Andre Ethier won Gold Gloves this year, or that Justin Verlander won the AL MVP despite arguably not even being the best pitcher in his own league, or that Ian Kennedy and Michael Young each received absolutely indefensible first-place votes for NL Cy Young and AL MVP, respectively. (As Baseball America‘s Ben Badler cracked wise on Twitter, “Michael Young wasn’t even the Rangers’ most valuable Michael.”) We looked at this back on October 1 when I quoted several writers (granted, most of whom don’t have MVP votes) who acknowledged Kemp’s great year yet admitted they’d disqualify him because the Dodgers “weren’t in contention”. Feelings may have changed since then, yet remember that voting was done before the playoffs started, so this vote was locked in stone nearly two months ago.

It’d be nice if Kemp won the award, particularly to pair with Clayton Kershaw‘s Cy Young, but I don’t really need it to know that the Kemp we witnessed in 2011 was pure greatness. The writers will do what the writers will do, quite incorrectly in my opinion, and it’s hardly like Braun didn’t also have a fantastic season – no shame in losing to a player like that.

In any case, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a cheat sheet for tomorrow’s results:

If Kemp wins the NL MVP, celebrate appropriately.

If he finishes second to Braun because writers believed Braun had a superior season, politely acknowledge that Braun also had a fantastic season and is a worthy winner.

If he finishes second to Braun and it becomes clear that the only reason this happened is because the Dodgers weren’t in the playoff hunt, sadly shake your head at the foolishness, yet don’t take it too seriously.

But if he finishes anywhere below second? Well, then, do what you must, and don’t expect me to talk you out of it.