Two candidates emerged as the season progressed. Both were deserving, one more so. Miguel Cabrera brought home the hardware, outdistancing Angels phenom Mike Trout. In my estimation, the correct decision was made.
Trout had an unprecedented year in many ways. At the tender age of 20, he showcased a blend of skills that hasn't been seen in a player his age in a long time. Power, speed and gold glove caliber defense in center field. Trout led the league in runs scored and stolen bases and had an on base percentage of almost .400.
He is unquestionably one of the premier young talents int he game today. The undisputed Rookie of the Year.
MVP? Almost. That award belongs to Miguel Cabrera.
Still, some who over analyze the game through advanced statistics doggedly claim that Trout is the true MVP.
For those folks, I raise a few questions.
How can a player accomplish something (Triple Crown) that hasn't been done since 1967 not win the award? After all, he did hit more home runs, hit for a higher average and knock in more runs than anyone in the league. While these do not qualify as advanced statistics anymore, that does not diminish their value. A batting title is still a batting title. A home run title is still a home run title.
Why have we devalued the human element of the game in favor of raw numbers? Last week, Cabrera won the Players Choice Award for the American League's Outstanding Player and the Player of the Year, which is for both leagues. Those awards are chosen by players, not writers. In other words, those that compete against Cabrera on the field voted him the best player in the game. No stats involved, just respect from peers who compete on a nightly basis against him.
When did we take the "V" out of MVP? There is no denying that Cabrera sprinted to the finish line in 2012, leading the Tigers to a division title and eventually a spot in the World Series. True, the Angels won more games than the Tigers, but Cabrera put his team on his back in crunch time. I actually was leaning toward Trout until I witnessed what Cabrera did the final month and a half of the season. Consider these September numbers, with playoff berths on the line:
Trout: ,289 AVG 5 HR 9 RBI .400 OBP .900 OPS
Cabrera: .333 AVG 11HR 33RBI .395 OBP 1.071 OPS
Late in the season as the debate intensified, I polled opposing managers and scouts. The question was simple, who is the MVP? Almost universally, the answer was Cabrera. Hardly a representative sample of the entire league, but telling nonetheless. Those managers and scouts made their decisions based on what they saw with their eyes, not a myriad of stats and statistical formulas.
Seventeen times this year, opposing managers decided they would rather pitch to Prince Fielder than Miguel Cabrera. Trout meanwhile was walked intentionally only 4 times this year. Even with Fielder sitting behind him in the lineup, managers passed on pitching to Cabrera in key situations.
Two great players. One debate that may never end.