Cubs

On some level, Keith can relate to Torres

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On some level, Keith can relate to Torres

Duncan Keith fielded the questions about Raffi Torres, his thoughts on the Phoenix Coyotes forwards hit on his teammate, Marian Hossa, the night before.

In a way, Keith could relate.

Ive made mistake(s) myself, said Keith. Torres is playing hard, trying to help his team. He made a mistake, too.

Keith never mentioned his mistake specifically. But it certainly sounded like he was alluding to his elbow to Canucks forward Daniel Sedins head, the one that cost him a five-game suspension, the one that has him as hated in Vancouver as Torres currently is in Chicago.

When it first happened, Keith said, the puck was up in the air, and from what I remember, Im trying to close my gap and have a good gap on him, Right at the last second he moves forward and I dont know where the puck is. Its fast and, like I said, I hope hes OK. He was asked several times in the ensuing days to revisit his hit, and the one Daniel had on him, but he didnt want to elaborate on either.

On Wednesday, Keith admitted that emotions can get the best of you in heated on-ice situations.

For myself, yeah, you have to keep your emotions in check. I learned from that, Keith said. Its tough, though. Hockeys a fast-paced game and things happen in the heat of the moment you regret. At the same time, its about being in control.

Keiths loss of control cost him five games and a chunk of his wallet. He was also assessed a two-minute elbowing penalty on the play. Torres wasnt penalized for his hit in Game 3, and NHL officials later said none of the four referees saw the play, so nothing was called.

Its easy to look back and say, it shouldve been a penalty. But I guess the refs didnt see it, Keith said. It happened quick and the puck wasnt there, and they didnt see it. So if they didnt see it, they didnt see it.

The NHL will look at Torres hit again, and theyll have an in-person hearing with the forward on Friday. Emotions get the best of players. They got to Keith before; they apparently got to Torres again.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.