In a radical departure from my normal silliness, where I expound on life, liberty and the pursuit of yummy cold coffee, today I offer up this guide for the un-indoctrinated. Since you probably have better things to think about — the upcoming election, troubles in the Middle East, who’s getting voted off Dancing With The Stars — you probably aren’t obsessing about who the best baseball player in The American League is. More specifically, this is a rant about why Tigers star Miguel Cabrera deserves to be the league’s MVP.
As a caveat and for the purposes of full-disclosure, I’m a hometown boy and have blinders for all other teams. When I lived out in New England, I really tried to care about the Red Sox but I just couldn’t get excited about them in their cool, vintage ballpark. Nope, it was the Tigers I kept in my heart during those bleak years down East.
In 1967, the Red Sox’s Carl Yastrzemski had the highest batting average of any player in his league. He also had the most runs batted in (RBI) and tied for the most home runs. Those three statistics won him The Triple Crown. No player has done that since. No baseball player has won that distinction since Lyndon Johnson was president. Back then you could get a brand new car for two or three thousand bucks and fill it with gas that cost about 25 cents a gallon. You paid for it with your minimum wage job, making $1.65 an hour.
The Triple Crown is finally being won again, 45 years later. Miguel Cabrera has hit more home runs than anyone in the league (44 this year), has batted in more runs (139) and has the highest average (.331). That’s pretty valuable, if you ask me. Not only that, his slugging percentage is the highest (.608) and when you combine his on-base percentage with his slugging percentage it’s also the highest (1.002).
And he might not win the Most Valuable Player award.
Here’s the problem, another fantastic player, Mike Trout, has been lighting up the stats chart this year too. He’s a rookie, a mere 21 years in age, and has been phenomenal. Trout has scored more runs than Cabrera, stolen a ton more bases, and has more triples. Cabrera, however has a ton more doubles and has struck out 40 less times than Trout.
Cabrera helped carry his team to the playoffs. Trout’s team, the California Angels of Anaheim (or whatever they’re calling themselves this year) is done for the season.
People love Mike Trout’s storybook season. Fans love his drive and incredible stats. There’s no denying he’s having a superstar season this year. But is he the most valuable player? That honor is being voted on over the next few days. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America is the governing board that decides who is the most valuable. I think their collective heads are stuck somewhere dark and dank if they don’t vote for Cabrera.
Don’t get me wrong, Cabrera has had his share of off-diamond problems. I can’t say I stand behind him through thick and thin. And Trout is a golden boy who does an outstanding job, even moreso considering his tender age. If it weren’t for Cabrera, Mike Trout would absolutely be the MVP.
Here’s the thing; other teams fear and are in awe of Cabrera. Watch the opposing dugout when he comes to the plate. Their players line the rails to watch him hit. That’s the awe part. The fear? He’s been intentionally walked three times as much as Trout. Managers don’t want to face Cabrera; they’d prefer to walk him and pitch to that slouch Prince Fielder. (NOTE: Fielder is having his best year ever.)
There are lots of other statistics; baseball is lousy with stats. Cabrera has a bunch more hits, more extra-base hits and more total bases than Trout. But yes, Trout has some interesting baseball calculus on his side too. Did I mention his fielding is great? Everyone talks about his incredible plays. Around the league, he’s in the top thirty for that, 30th actually, in fielding percentage.
I’ll stop yapping by saying this: Yastrzemski won the MVP award when he won the Triple Crown (beating out Tigers Bill Freehan and Al Kaline). A year earlier, Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown and also won the MVP. In fact, only eight players in history have won the Triple Crown; it’s that prestigious. Ever hear of Ty Cobb? Does the name Mickey Mantle ring a bell? How about Ted Williams or Lou Gehrig? That’s some impressive company.
Mike Trout should win something and he will. He is hands-down the Rookie Of The Year.
But Miguel Cabrera is the league’s Most Valuable Player.