Ed Zurga - Getty Images
It seems that Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown, the majors' first since 1967, might be enough to carry him past Mike Trout in the MVP balloting. But should it?
I wasn't sure I would ever see a player win a Triple Crown.
I mean, I was alive for the last two, but I don't think my parents propped me up in front of our little black-and-white set, just so I could witness Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. I didn't actually start paying attention to baseball until 1974, which makes it ... well, roughly a 38-year wait. A wait so long that I was just about ready to give up. There had just been so many great hitters in all those years ... If none of them could do it, maybe nobody could.
Of course, we never thought anybody would hit 70 home runs until someone did. We never thought someone would draw 120 intentional walks in one season until someone did. It's hard to believe someone will do something astounding until someone actually does it. But when it happens, you feel lucky to have been there for it.
I do, anyway. I have no affection for the Detroit Tigers and Miguel Cabrera's never been one of my favorite players, but among this season's many thrills, Cabrera's Triple Crown ranks very near the top.*
* Between Cabrera and the Athletics' comeback and Bobby Dickey's brilliance, the competition is strong.
What I can't understand is the notion that Cabrera's singular accomplishment means, ispso facto, deserves a Most Valuable Player Award. But that seems to be a popular sentiment out there in Webland. I won't belabor the point by actually quoting my colleag--Oh, okay. I guess I should. I know you guys hate a straw-man argument.
First, one of my favorite writers:
Let’s answer the big question right away: if Miguel Cabrera wins the triple crown, he should be the American League’s most valuable player. To lead the league in batting average, homers and runs batted in and not be named M.V.P. simply does not feel right.
Next, from a writer I've never read before but who I'm sure is quite good:
Undoubtedly, Trout’s having an MVP type season with 28 homers, 72 RBIs and a .322 average. He’s swiped 47 bases while posting a .944 OPS. And he plays great defense.
But it’s the Triple Crown.
For pete’s sake, no one has won the darn thing in almost 50 years!
For Pete Rose's sake, indeed. Finally, this next guy isn't a writer but he's definitely smart enough to be a writer someday, if he's willing to work at it. From the L.A. Times:
Whether Cabrera's year is judged to be the best in the American League won't be known until next month, when the MVP balloting is announced. The last three triple crown winners all won the MVP, earning a combined 99% of the vote.
"If Cabrera wins the triple crown, he has to be the MVP, absolutely," Royals Manager Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday.
Well gosh, how can you argue with someone with Ned Yost's analytical acumen?
I don't know. But let me give it a shot.
It's called the Most Valuable Player Award. There is no single statistic for a hitter that guarantees that he has been the most valuable player in his league.
If a player hits 60 home runs, you might guess he's the most valuable player in the league and most of the time you would probably be right. But what if he also batted .235, drew 40 walks, and played a really crummy first base? Don't you think there might then be a more valuable player in the league?
If a player bats .400 -- nobody's done that since 1941! -- you might guess he's the most valuable player in the league and most of the time you would probably be right. But what if he rarely walked, nearly all of his hits were single, and he was a slow left fielder? Don't you think there might then be a more valuable player in the league?
If a player is the best hitter in his league and plays really well for a really good team that comes on strong down the stretch to grab a playoff spot, you might guess he's the most valuable player in the league and most of the time you would probably be right. But what if he was a pretty lousy third baseman? And what if there was another player in the league, who was far superior on the bases and with the glove, and a brilliant hitter, and played for a team that actually won more games than our big-hitting third baseman?
Ah, but none of that matters. Because our third baseman happened to lead his league in batting average. And home runs. And runs batted in. And suddenly, everyone who's railed against using statistics to determine things like awards, while insisting on the importance of the little things -- you know, little things like running fast and making spectacular plays in center field -- suddenly, they're all arguing that we should forget about those little things and instead fetishize a few of the most raw, basic, old-fashioned statistics.
Hey, I gave it a shot. And I almost made it through the whole thing without mentioning w.a.r. even once.