|Miguel Cabrera, leaving the game with the Triple Crown|
But now another, quite heated debate has begun: should Miguel Cabrera be the American League's Most Valuable Player for 2012?
|Mike Trout: not just an awesome bat|
Now, there is a school of thought—with which I have never agreed—that a player's stats are somehow diminished if his team does not make it to the postseason. (This is similar to the idiots who used to say that Curtis Joseph wasn't a very good goalie because he never won the Stanley Cup; Glenn Healy has his name on the Stanley Cup which should be an easy end to that argument every single time.) I think this is total crap even in normal circumstances, but let's look at these two teams specifically. The Angels last year had a record of 86-76 and missed the final Wild Card spot by 5 games. This year, they improved by three games (89-73) but still missed the playoffs; however, they had the sixth-best record in the American League and played an unbalanced schedule in a division that included the second- and third-best records. Contrast that with the Tigers, who last year won 95 games and took the division title quite handily. This year, with the addition of Prince Fielder and the Triple Crown heroics of Cabrera, the Tigers only won 88 games (or about 7% fewer than last year) and finished seventh in the American League, one place below the Angels. The only reason that the Tigers are alive to play more baseball this year is that their division is arguably the worst in all of Major League baseball, with three teams losing 90 games or more and finishing last, second-last and fourth-last in the American League. Even in a division this bad the Tigers still only won by three games and wouldn't have come close to qualifying for one of the two Wild Card spots had they not finished first in the Central. So the argument that Cabrera "led his team to the postseason" is a non-starter as far as I am concerned. It can be demonstrably shown that Trout meant far more to his team than Cabrera to his, at least in the 2012 season. Not only that, but to go with just the fact that Cabrera won the Triple Crown is ludicrous; I am taking nothing away from his amazing numbers when I say that he had to also be a bit lucky to win, as the two-time reigning home run champ (Jose Bautista) missed the last 72 games of the season (and was leading again when he got hurt), while Cabrera's batting average—as he defended his crown—would have put him fourth in last season's standings. He certainly took advantage of the openings presented to him—along with the presence of Prince Fielder batting right behind him in the order—and grabbed the elusive Triple Crown while the opportunity was there and, as a baseball fan, I am thrilled that he did. It shouldn't make him a lock for the MVP, though.
|Jose Bautista delivering the goods|
So the bottom line is this: I fully expect the American League MVP for 2012 to be Miguel Cabrera, because the downside of "snubbing" a Triple Crown winner who is not American-born in favour of an American rookie who didn't make the playoffs and didn't finish first in any "fan friendly" offensive category, no matter how much more he meant to his team, is not something that MLB wishes upon itself right now. Would that be a miscarriage of justice? No, not at all. This award is truly objective and that's both its charm and its downfall.
But, to my mind, it would be wrong. My personal choice as MVP is Mike Trout.