Sure, it’s just Spring Training and the wind is blowing out and the smaller ballpark makes the home run look that much more impressive, but damn if this Miguel Cabrera megajack off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon isn’t a sight to behold. High into the sunny sky, appearing to land just beyond [insert Central Florida landmark here.]
Baseball highlights, ain’t nothing like them!
The concept of value is taking a pretty severe beating this week. Reaching a working definition of “valuable” means parsing its use in an “awards” sense versus its use in statistical abstractions, making for muddy waters indeed. A given player’s role on a winning team, the weight given to defense, base running, and everything else not done in the batters box is suddenly up in the air.
Does defense and base running matter? Are positional differences not worth considering? Allow me the indulgence of a simple thought experiment.
If we are to believe base running and defense don’t matter, and that Miguel Cabrera carried the Tigers, let’s use our imagination to put that thinking to the test.
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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.
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If you, dear reader, click the above photo and read the description below it, you will see something written with great haste. Whoever is tasked with labelling the rapid-fire images that fly into Getty Images headquarters during a tightly-contested World Series game understandably made some…mistakes when creating the image caption, which goes as follows:
DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 28: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after a pitch by Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers in the first inning during Game Four of the Major League Baseball World Series at Comerica Park on October 28, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
No, Max Scherzer was not traded mid-game, nor did he throw a pitch to teammate Miguel Cabrera. Tight deadlines are bad enough without the incredibly unusual act of a batter calling for an appeal on his own check swing. Ballsy stuff, Miggy. I’ve heard of hitters with a strong knowledge of the strikezone but this is on a whole other level.