MIDWEST CITY — Matt Kemp will not brand Ryan Braun a cheater.
The Los Angeles Dodger center fielder — who nearly won the Triple Crown last season — won't say that he should be given the National League's MVP award if it's proven that Braun was using a performance enhancing drug.
“Nobody knows anything, so you can't really say that he was a cheater,” Kemp said Thursday. “Nobody knows the situation or anything that happened. Right now Ryan Braun is the MVP. He is still the MVP and he is going to be the MVP.”
Kemp was in the hunt to win the Triple Crown until the final week of the season. He finished the season hitting .324 with 39 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 126 RBIs.
Kemp finished third in the batting race — 13 points behind the Mets' Jose Reyes — but he led the league in homers, RBIs, runs scored and total bases. However, the Dodgers didn't make the playoffs, while Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers did.
Braun hit .332 with 33 home runs, 33 stolen bases and 111 RBIs. He won the MVP award, and Kemp finished a close second.
But shortly after Braun was named MVP, it was revealed that he had tested positive during the playoffs for elevated levels of testosterone. Braun faces a 50-game suspension but denies knowingly taking any banned substance and is appealing.
The Baseball Writers Association of America, which votes on the MVP award, already has announced that Braun will not be stripped of the award even if the drug test is upheld.
Kemp took the high road when addressing the issue Thursday while home for the holidays in Midwest City.
“I didn't win the MVP,” Kemp said. “The writers voted for who they wanted to be the MVP. I got second place. I am just going to have to try harder for next year.”
Kemp acknowledged he was shocked when the news of the failed drug test first scrolled across the bottom of his television screen on ESPN, but he is giving Braun the benefit of the doubt.
“Ryan Braun is a good friend of mine and someone that I respect and one of my favorite players in the game,” Kemp said. “Like I said, right now it's just speculation and nobody knows anything.”
Kemp claims he wasn't disappointed by finishing second in the MVP voting despite his monster season. It just motivates him next season to accomplish something no one has ever done in baseball: hit 50 home runs and steal 50 stolen bases in the same season.
Kemp said the baseball writers thought he was crazy when he talked about a 50-50 season during a conference call after the MVP award was announced.
“I wasn't playing around,” he said. “I told them I was serious. Anything is possible.”
Kemp said his only disappointment last season was that the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs. He believes they will be contenders next season.
“It shows with the second half we had last year,” he said. “We definitely made a push and started playing better baseball and definitely showed signs of having a great team. If we just put it together from the beginning to the end, we could be really, really good.”