Ryan Braun muscles his way to first MVP

Speak softly, carry a big bat, and sell T-shirts with tigers on them: Those words are Ryan Braun's secret to success that earned him the 2011 National League MVP award.

In a close vote that saw him earn 20 of 32 first-place votes, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun won his first MVP award thanks to some eye-catching power numbers. He led the NL in slugging percentage (.597) and extra-base hits (77) while being named to both the All-Star game and the roster of NL Silver Sluggers. Oh, and he helped the Brew Crew win their first NL Central Division title with a franchise-high 96 wins, all while fielding random marriage proposals from obsessed fans.

Sorry, ladies! He's married to baseball! {YSP:MORE}

Braun becomes the first Brewers player to snag an MVP award since way back in 1989, when the team was still in the American League and Robin Yount won it wearing this snazzy home uniform. The last time a Milwaukee player won the MVP honors while playing the corner outfield? That would be Hall of Famer and Bud Selig's close pal Hank Aaron of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.

Finishing in a close second was Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who came within a dozen or so average points of winning the triple crown. Kemp led the league in home runs and RBIs and had he been able to topple eventual batting champ Jose Reyes, he might have won the MVP race by a mile.

Braun's teammate and personal lineup protection Prince Fielder took third place with one first-place vote, one 10th-place vote, and a bunch of other votes piled up between. With Albert Pujols finishing fifth and Joey Votto right behind, that makes three NL Central first basemen among the top-six vote-getters. Hey, where's Carlos Pena?

One interesting quirk in the voting: The starting pitcher to finish the highest was Roy Halladay in ninth place, not Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who ended up in 12th place. The highest finish for a reliever? That'd be Braun's teammate John Axford in a distant 15th.

Braun's previous high mark in the MVP voting came in 2008, when he ended up in third place behind Pujols and Ryan Howard. Perhaps Braun should consider taking Prince Fielder out for a steak to thank him for the lineup protection. If Fielder, who hit cleanup in all 162 Brewers games this year, flees the team for more money elsewhere, it will be that much tougher for Braun to repeat his boffo performance in 2012.

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