This wouldn't be the first time the better player didn't win MVP, and it is far from the worst time.
It's okay, we understand. You like Mike Trout, and even if it's not solely because wins above replacement measures like Mike Trout, that does have something to do with it. And that's fine! WAR isn't perfect, regardless of who is calculating it, but its broad strokes are defined enough to help us with some of the big ideas. The gap between Trout and Miguel Cabrera is large enough that many feel very comfortable in saying Trout is the best candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player award this year, and since the eye-test confirms that Trout can field and run, that's an understandable feeling.
Cabrera is no slouch, though, even if Trout was better. Yet, the anger and vitriol that will be spewed tonight when the AL MVP is announced, whether from the pro-Trout or pro-Cabrera camp, is likely to be just a wee bit over the top anyway. So, let's take a trip down memory lane before this all goes down, and show you situations that are maybe more deserving of your scorn than tonight's outcome.
What we're looking for are gaps larger than the three-or-so wins separating Trout and Cabrera. And they do so-very-egregiously exist. One thing: just because, we'll avoid starting pitchers who were MVPs. Otherwise, this will devolve into talking about how great Pedro Martinez was and how dare people leave him off of their ballots in favor of Ivan Rodriguez and ... ahem. Also, we'll only go back 40 years, for sanity's sake.
2004 - Vladimir Guerrero (5.2) over Ichiro Suzuki (9.0): Ichiro was at the height of his Ichiro! phase, and while Guerrero was excellent, too, he simply didn't stack up. In some ways, this is similar to the current debate, since Ichiro was great offensively, but was also a serious defensive presence and a huge contributor on the basepaths. Guerrero had a great arm, but he was no Ichiro afield or as a runner.
1996 - Juan Gonzalez (3.5) over Ken Griffey Jr. (9.5): Gonzalez put up a huge-looking .314/.368/.643 line, but did so in an extreme hitter's park. That, plus the inflated offensive numbers of the time (your average AL hitter was at .277/.350/.445) and Gonzalez's atrocious defense in the outfield, meant he was nowhere near as valuable as the line suggests. Griffey, on the other hand, hit .303/.392/.628 in a pitcher's park, while playing tremendous defense in center.
1992 - Dennis Eckersley (2.8) over Everyone Else: Eckersley had a fine career, but essentially won the MVP by posting an impressive ERA and racking up saves. Among players who received votes, his wins above replacement ranked 17th, and among AL players in general, ranked 116th. Now, even if you don't enjoy WAR as the way to determine MVP, this is pretty ridiculous.
1987 - George Bell (4.6) over Wade Boggs (8.2) and Andre Dawson (3.7) over Tony Gwynn (8.3): Both leagues had screwy results, with Wade Boggs hitting .363/.461/.588, but losing out to George Bell, whose on-base percentage was 109 points lower. Dawson led the National League in home runs, RBI, and total bases, but was generously helped by Wrigley Field, where he posted a 1041 OPS; whereas on the road, just 768. Gwynn, on the other hand, matched Dawson's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and hit better in a tougher home park while also performing better on the road.
1984 - Willie Hernandez (4.6) over Cal Ripken (9.8): Hernandez is yet another closer to take home an MVP award, and while there is no denying his season was great, as he threw 140 innings with a 204 ERA+, it wasn't even historically relevant for that kind of role. Rich Gossage, Dick Radatz, and many others had done more with the position already, and even aside from that, Ripken more than doubled him in value.
The worst part about this isn't that Hernandez won, though. It's that Ripken, who hit .304/.374/.510 at a time when shortstops hit .249/.301/.330 as a group, finished 27th for the MVP. It's not as if Ripken was an unknown, either: this was his third full year in the majors, and he had won the AL MVP the year prior.
1979 - Don Baylor (3.5) over Fred Lynn (8.6): Fred Lynn wasn't an Angel at this stage, otherwise this might be easier to swallow for Halos fans. But Baylor simply had a great season in a string of them, and in this one, the outfielder/designated hitter led the AL in both RBI and runs. WAR discredits Baylor for his defense severely, and he takes a hit for his time at DH as well, but it's hard to ignore Lynn's greatness on both sides of the ball, even if the math on Baylor is a little off.
1974: Jeff Burroughs (3.2) over Rod Carew (7.2), and Steve Garvey (4.3) over Mike Schmidt (9.5): Burroughs ' best season was this one, at least offensively. His defensive stats butcher his value, though, and it's why even an impressive-looking campaign like his 1974 isn't worth what it looks like. Carew, though, led the AL in hits, on-base percentage, and batting average, and while he was no great defender, he was much better than Burroughs. In the NL, Garvey won over Schmidt, despite Schmidt having the kind of season that would eventually make him a Hall of Famer, thanks to his power and excellent defense at third. Garvey's Dodgers finished in first, though, and despite his not even being the best player on his own team (Jim Wynn says hello), he took home the hardware.
Remember, for many people there's more to the MVP race than just naming the best player. And since the definition is so open, you might disagree, but disagreement is allowed.
Voting information and WAR data courtesy Baseball-Reference.com