Award-winning Tigers are poised to haul away more hardware

Miguel Cabrera (2012) and Justin Verlander (2011), have won the last two American League Most Valuable Player Awards.

Miguel Cabrera (2012) and Justin Verlander (2011), have won the last two American League Most Valuable Player Awards.

The Tigers are poised to become the first team in MLB history to win five of the top two individual season honors — the Cy Young and the MVP — within a three-year span. This assumes that, barring some disaster in the final month, Miguel Cabrera is a sure MVP winner again and that Max Scherzer, with his gaudy winning percentage and strikeout numbers, will walk off with the Cy Young and hold off Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez. Add these presumed honors to Miggy’s 2012 MVP season and Justin Verlander’s capturing both honors in 2011 — and you have a first in American League history. (Not to mention that JV finished a close second in the Cy Young voting last year.)

This is how truly remarkable the last few years have been for Detroit’s stars: it’s been done only once before — a half-century ago.

The first team to collect as many as four out of the six individual player top honors in three consecutive seasons was the legendary New York Yankees of the early 1960s. In 1961, Roger Maris won the MVP Award while teammate Whitey Ford won the Cy Young.  Mickey Mantle won the MVP in ’62 for the Bombers, and the following season, in 1963, Elston Howard captured the MVP trophy. That gave the Yanks three straight MVPs, a feat the Tigers could match in 2013.

What the Tigers’ stars are set to do is pretty incredible. Even if Scherzer goes into a tailspin and is somehow upset in the final Cy Young voting, Detroit will still have won four of the two big awards in a three-year span. And since the Yanks did it from ’61-’63, that feat has only been accomplished once more: by the Oakland As of 1990-92 (Bob Welch won the Cy Young and Rickey Henderson the MVP in 1990, and Dennis Eckersley won both in 1992).

The Oakland As of the early 1970s won four of the awards in a four-year span: Vida Blue won both MVP and the Cy in 1971, Reggie Jackson was MVP in ‘73 and Catfish Hunter won the Cy Young in 1974.

The haul of individual trophies is a rare feat.

Mike Trout and the WAR debates not withstanding, Cabrera is certain to win the MVP this year with much better numbers than when he won it last season. That will give the Tigers three consecutive MVP seasons. They will become only the fourth team in history to do this.

The legendary Big Red Machine accomplished the feat in the mid-1970s. Joe Morgan won in 1975 and 1976 and George Foster in 1977. That capped a string of six MVPs for Cincinnati in eight years (Johnny Bench won in 1970 and 1972 and Pete Rose in 1973).
During their glory days, the Yankees twice reeled off four consecutive MVP seasons in a ten-year span (Yogi Berra in 1954-55 and Mickey Mantle twice in 1956-57; Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961, followed by Mantle and Elston Howard).

The only other team to capture three consecutive MVPs was the Philadelphia Athletics of 1931-33 (Lefty Grove won in ’31 followed by Jimmie Foxx twice). (MVP awards were not consistently given before 1931.)

What’s happened the last three years is unprecedented in Tigers history, and these incredible individual seasons put the Tigers in some elite company historically.

Now they just need to win a World Series to even start a discussion about where they stand among the greatest teams of all time. Despite these wonderful personal achievements, as a team they’re nowhere near being part of that discussion yet. The other teams mentioned in this article are worthy of being in the mix of greatest teams ever, along with the 1927 Yankees. But not the Tigers — at least, not yet.

By the way, what do you think the chances are of Cabrera winning the MVP the next two seasons? If he does do it, Detroit will become the first team in the history of the game to have the best player in the league five years in a row.

I’d say the chances of that are pretty good.



About Michael Betzold

Author of Queen of Diamonds: The Tiger Stadium Story and other books, former Detroit Free Press reporter Michael Betzold always wore #4 to honor his first hero, the "Sunday Punch," Charlie "Paw Paw" Maxwell.