If you become baseball’s first triple crown winner in 45 years and your team makes it to the World Series, to me it would be a pretty big upset if you didn’t win the American League Most Valuable Player award and I thought all along that Miguel Cabrera deserved it and would win it. The Detroit Tigers third baseman was announced as the 2012 MVP Thursday night and I can’t see how anyone can argue against the choice.
There was a body of opinion out there that the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout should win MVP, but I never thought he was going for anything besides runner-up, which is where he landed. Trout, the fabulous rookie outfielder had a tremendous debut season, but Cabrera had a better one and, most importantly, a more meaningful one.
Once again we can review the arguments about the difference between being most valuable and most outstanding, but if truth be told I think Cabrera was more outstanding. Alth0ugh baseball experts seem more concerned with oddball stats and the little things these days than ever before, the meat and potatoes of the game are the big three categories of home runs, runs batted in and batting average, with runs scored next in line in significance. Call me old school, but that’s how I see it, again without diminishing Trout’s individual showing.
Also, seasonal greatness needs to be looked at in the context of a winning team. It has often been said (without much thinking behind it) that the Cy Young award is the pitcher’s Most Valuable Player award. It is not. It really is the pitcher’s most outstanding pitching award. Otherwise pitchers would not be eligible for and would not ever win the MVP award as Justin Verlander did for the Tigers in 2011. They probably should be considered more seriously more often.
Trout produced an awesome showing as a rookie, and at 20 for most of the season, a young one at that. He batted .326, hit 30 homers with 83 RBIs, and led the AL in runs scored with 129 and stolen bases with 49. He also fielded superbly. Heck of a year, buddy, and that’s why Trout was a runaway rookie if the year. Yet his team was one of the bigger underachievers in the sport. The Angels figured to give the Texas Rangers a run for the AL West Division title. They finished third in their division and didn’t even make the playoffs.
The flip side of Cabrera’s 2012 greatness was that he led the league in home runs with 44, RBIs with 139, and batting average at .330. He had an on-base percentage of .393 and also led the league with a .606 slugging percentage. His Detroit Tigers won the AL Central Division and a first-round playoff bye, then advanced through the playoffs and into the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. In terms of voting, the key element was that the 29-year-old Cabrera’s team advanced and Trout’s team did not.
The right guy won the AL MVP. If the award was for most outstanding the debate might have been hotter.