The great debate of 2012 — Triple Crown vs. Triple Threat for MVP — is over.
Miguel Cabrera received 22 first-place votes, keeping the award in the D., while Mike Trout received the other six. What’s interesting is that ESPN polled 28 of its writers and Trout won, 21-7, nearly the reverse of how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America saw it.
Over the summer, a number of online forums debated who should be MVP. Some were, at best, heated, while others were, at worst, downright nasty.
The Trout fan base touted the Angel center fielder as a three-way threat: great defense, hitting prowess equal to Cabrera, and a threat on the base paths. “He creates his own scoring opportunities,” they claimed, “by getting on base and stealing bases.”
They had a point. Ty Cobb, who knew a thing or two about hitting, thought the home run overrated. “My sister could hit home runs in Yankee Stadium,” he once said, referring to the short right field fence. Cobb, who revolutionized base stealing as an offensive weapon, could coax a walk, steal first, second, third and home, and beat a team 1-0. Cobb was the definition of most valuable player.
But Cobb played in the deadball era, when eight or ten home runs typically led the league.
Cabrera supporters countered that Cabrera creates his own scoring opportunities, too, by hitting the big fly — more than anyone else in the league — and driving in runs by finding the gaps and hitting from chalk line to chalk line. He won the Triple Crown.
“But Trout is a better defender,” they argued. “He takes runs away from the opposition. Cabrera is a liability at third base.”
Third base is a more demanding position than center field, and Cabrera was not the liability at the hot corner many feared when the season began. He’s never going to win a Gold Glove, but considering he hadn’t played the position for several years and was moved over to make room for Prince Fielder at first base, he played a steady if not spectacular third base.
Trout supporters went on to talk about computer numbers like WAR and BABIP and a host of other, to them, important numbers. If you’re old school, a purist, you look at batting average, RBI total, home runs and slugging percentage. Cabrera bested Trout in all those categories.
Cabrera supporters argued that the Angels finished in third place in the Western Division, which is where they were when Trout was called up from the minors. Take Cabrera out of Detroit’s lineup and it’s very likely the White Sox win the A.L. Central.
Throw in that Trout did most of his damage, offensively, before the All-Star break and that his numbers slipped significantly in September, while Cabrera saved his best for last, and it’s a no-brainer: Miguel Cabrera deserved to win MVP.
“But Trout’s the better player!” his supporters cried.
But MVP is not about the best player. It’s about the player who contributed most to his team throughout the season. In 2012, that player was Miguel Cabrera.
Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said it best: “If this guy doesn’t get the MVP, then there should be no such thing as an MVP.”