There are worse crimes in the deep annals of BBWAA vote butchery than voting Miguel Cabrera as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2012. SB Nation ran down some of the worst winners and extraneous votes from throughout the years. Cabrera’s win does not belong anywhere near such a list.
Miguel Cabrera is not a bad MVP selection by any stretch of the imagination. He won the freaking Triple Crown, a feat unseen in baseball since 1967. His team made the playoffs – though his team plays in a very weak division and the best pitcher in baseball (and Cy Young runner-up) and a $200 million dollar slugger rank among his team mates.
Some twists of fate coupled with Cabrera’s incredible performance placed him atop three key statistical leaderboards, fast-tracking him to immortality (key if largely irrelevant in an “on the field” baseball sense) and delivering Miguel Cabrera the 2012 MVP award. I don’t care how cosy your ballpark: .330/.393/.606 is really, really good! 200 hits is good, 44 league-leading home runs is great.
Cabrera spent the season at or near third base, giving his all at the hot corner. While no one confuses him for Brooks Robinson, his portly friend Prince and many other top sluggers could not pull off the same trick after more than four years on the other side of the diamond.
The problem, if there is one, is that Mike Trout’s season was better. Mike Trout is probably a better baseball player than Miguel Cabrera. He did not hit for as much power as the Tigers third baseman but he reached base at a higher rate than Cabrera, a higher rate than all but two hitters in the AL.
He also ran the bases better than anyone else, he played defense in the outfield better than anyone else, and hit for more power than anyone has any right to expect of a base-stealing fly catcher – Trout’s 30 home runs ranked him 13th in the American League. In 2012, in the eyes of many around the game, Mike Trout was the most valuable player in baseball.
But Mike Trout was not voted MVP – that goes to Miguel Cabrera. Congratulations.
Can anyone watch the two MVP favorites play and come away thinking Miguel Cabrera is capable of doing more to help his team win? If only watch only the time spent directly in the batters box, maybe. But the game is played beyond the confines of the pitcher/batter confrontation. In those many capacities, Trout exceeds the contributions of Cabrera.
But Cabrera made a different kind of history and made the playoffs (with all the inherent advantages build into that construct) so he gets the award. His Triple Crown will live forever and Mike Trout must wait for the planets to align once again.
Robinson Cano’s amazing season falls by the wayside. Adrian Beltre? Never heard of him. Justin Verlander won last year and was just as good in 2012, minus those pesky pitcher wins. This award is all about Cabrera and Trout. Cabrera won.
This is not a triumph for The Old Way or The Old Guard or proof “new stats” are false or somehow less legitimate. The stats say Trout but the MVP is elected democratically – warts and bias and subjectivity and all. You know what? That’s okay.
If the voters don’t see the ways in which Mike Trout’s value outstrips Miguel Cabrera, it’s their loss. If champions of small ball and Playing the Game the Right Way and going from first to third on a single suddenly forgot the importance of these pillars of the game because a guy lead the league in NotThoseStatsTHESEStats: oh well. Hopefully they’ll get it right next time, right? They can either come around our get left behind, their choice.
There is no shame in the baseball world for Cabrera taking this award. He is a deserving winner for his incredible season (his best since last year, when his offensive line was even better and he was the most valuable player in the American League.) Congratulations to Miguel for his MVP trophy, Triple Crown feat, and trip to the World Series. Not a bad 7 months of baseball, Miggy. Not bad at all.