Breaking Balls: Debating the American League MVP


Does winning the Triple Crown give Miguel Cabrera an edge over Mike Trout?

The best part of baseball’s award season is arguing about who should have won because once the arguments settle down, nobody cares anymore who actually won. Unless, of course, the winner winds up testing positive for performance enhancing drugs during the offseason and everyone is reminded that Ryan Braun shouldn’t have won the award in the first place.

Awards are arbitrary – voted on arbitrarily by baseball writers with arbitrary understandings of the award guidelines. So, getting upset over who wins or doesn’t win is a waste of time and energy. And that’s right up my alley.

I voted for the Angels’ Mike Trout for Through the Fence Baseball’s award for American League Most Valuable Player. I was not alone, but I was in the minority (an unusual place for a Caucasian male like myself). During the voting I noticed that the site’s managing editor Jon Sumple had voted for the likely winner: Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera.

And what follows is the email exchange I had with Jon:

Jed: You picked Miguel Cabrera for MVP? I don’t even know who you are anymore!!!!!!!!!

Jon: And as you can see, so did many others.

I’m old school. Triple Crown sealed it for me. On top of that, Trout faded in the August and September. Save for a strong final week of the season, he was on a consistent downward trend. Miggy? Through the roof when it counted most. Compare their final months and get back to me.

Jed: I don’t see you mention defense or baserunning anywhere. Very clever tactical move by you.

Miggy is the worst thirdbaseman in the AL.  How many outs did he turn into hits for his opponents?  Trout is the best defender in the league. How many hits did he turn into outs for his opponents?

Miggy should definitely win the Hank Aaron award.

But the most valuable player (assuming players do more than hit) is Mike Trout.

Jon: How does the best defender in the league not win a Gold Glove?

And Miggy is NOT the worst 3B in the AL, let alone all of MLB. Not by a long shot. Go here if you need some convincing and just look at where his stats place him across the board. He’s an above-average third basemen, statistically speaking.

Good day, sir.

Jed: I know you prefaced your earlier argument by saying that you’re old school, but I sincerely hope you don’t think that fielding percentage is the most important aspect of defense and that the Gold Glove Awards – who have awarded Derek Jeter on multiple occasions and even Rafael Palmeiro when he played 20 games at first base – are anything other than a popularity contest.

Say it ain’t so, Jon.  Say it ain’t so!

Jon: Is that your defense of Miggy being the worst 3B in the AL?

I didn’t say anything about Miggy or Trout’s fielding percentage. You’re stating that Miggy is the worst defensive 3B in the AL and therefore shouldn’t even be considered for the MVP. That’s easily defendable by statistics, and not just fielding percentage. And don’t even mention WAR or any of its many derivatives. It’s the most subjective and unintelligible stats there is.

Jed: But the link you sent me showed he was the worst.

Jon: Only if you put your stock in dWAR, which is as crazy as Romney believing he was going to win in a landslide.

Do you honestly believe that Trout was the difference throughout the entire season for the Angels’ winning ways? They actually played better as a team down the stretch when he was struggling. So using intangibles, I don’t think you’d get much of an argument from “experts” that Miggy was more valuable when it counted most during the season. To me, that gives him an advantage over Trout.

Trout had a remarkable season. No argument there. I just don’t see the argument that many Trout-ophiles have in degrading Miggy’s season for what he didn’t do. He led his team to the playoffs and he won the Triple Crown. Trout did neither. Those are pretty big deciders for me.

Jed: So, we disregard that Miggy was slagging off in the middle of the season and Trout was busting his ass to get his team back into contention after a 6-14 start.

And you say Trout was “struggling” at the end, but you just mean that he wasn’t hitting as amazing as he had been – though he continued to field and run the bases exceptionally.  When Miggy was struggling at the plate, he was also struggling in the field and on the bases.

And then how can you prove that Miggy “carried” anything? In almost every win down the stretch, they’re pitching was so good that his offense was superfluous.

Also, Trout’s team wound up with a better record. So Miggy gets credit for the A’s having a breakout season and the White Sox collapsing?  That seems a bit beyond any professional athlete’s abilities.

Jon: Apply everything you just said to your argument for Trout. Same deal. So Trout single-handedly carried the Angels back from a 6-14 record? And I haven’t said that Trout is unworthy anywhere in this discussion. I’ve shared why I would pick Miggy. Trout is most definitely deserving. But so is Miggy. And if I had a vote, Miggy’d get it.

Bottomline: Comes down to what the BBWAA voters decide regardless of who should or shouldn’t win or what you or I think. And, quite honestly, I could give a rat’s ass who wins. I think both are deserving.

Until there is a process that isn’t driven by individual interpretation – which varies from person to person – there will always be a subjectiveness to it all.

Jed: Well if we’re talking about who will win, then it’s clearly going to be Cabrera.  Everyone knows that.

ESPN had a Behind the Lines with four of their “experts” and each one (old school and new school and VERY new school) said Trout should win but that Cabrera would win.

Well, there you have it.

Jon and I haven’t really spoken since. He probably hates me because I disagree with his stupid opinion and now he’s going to make sure my columns are filled with grammatical and spelling errors. Man, you thought the writing in my columns was sloppy before? That’s after Jon cleans them up.

Don’t worry about us. We’ll be okay. At least until next year’s award season.

[Editor’s note: This is the cleanest article submitted by Jed yet … because I wrote half of it.]

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