Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
I was at a Mike Trout victory party with the the rest of the nerds. There were streamers and balloons, there were bowls of clam dip and punch. Separate bowls. We're nerds, but we're not that weird. And as the returns for the MVP balloting came in, everyone in the room got really, really quiet.
Defeat. Immolation. The worst-case scenario. All is lost. All is lost.
Wait, that's not how it happened. I watched the award announcement on TV, and when Cabrera won as expected, I started thinking about whatever else it is you're supposed to think about in the off-season. Kyle Lohse or something. Something that helped prevent the vote from being a tragedy: Miguel Cabrera had a really, really, really, really, really fantastic season. Stare at his Baseball Reference page for a while. That looks like the kind of page that should have a little "MVP-1" over at the side.
ACRONYM JOKES. ALL OF THE ACRONYM JOKES. HAS ANYONE NOTICED THAT THESE STATS USE ACRONYMS? LOL. SAY, THAT'S AN ACRONYM! I WATCH BASEBALL WITH MY EYES. MY EYES. THEY'VE BEEN DESCRIBED AS BETTE DAVIS EYES, AND I USE THEM TO WATCH BASEBALL. I DON'T SWALLOW COMPUTERS AND PRESS MY NOSE TO TURN THEM ON TO WATCH BASEBALL, AS I'M PRETTY SURE THAT'S HOW DORKS USE COMPUTERS. I WOULDN'T KNOW BECAUSE I'M NOT A DORK. MIMEOGRAPH OR BUST, SUCKERS.
That's more of a paraphrasing, really. And I'm not going to link to the actual article because that was his cunning plan in the first place. The point is that stat lovers don't love baseball like pure fans, et cetera. You've read the column before. You can write it yourself.
This isn't a takedown of that column. It's an appeal to baseball fans who don't care about stats. They're out there. And they love baseball just as much as the rest of us. This is a simple appeal, and it begins with a simple point of record:
It is insane that Mike Trout's MVP case was relegated to something that only a stathead could appreciate.
Insane. After reading the cry-in-your-Hot-Pocket-flavored-tea-you-dorks tweets and columns, I'm wondering if Rod Serling is going to hop out from behind a bush and narrate the rest of my day. This wasn't accounting tomfoolery. Trout's candidacy wasn't an unexpected result spit out from the bottom of a 40-MB spreadsheet. This was an argument about the value of speed and defense. The numbers are almost superfluous.
In fact, let's turn the argument around.
Miguel Cabrera hit better than Mike Trout, but it was close.
Mike Trout fielded better (at a more important position) than Miguel Cabrera, and it wasn't close.
Mike Trout ran the bases better than Miguel Cabrera, and it wasn't close.
That's the argument. There wasn't a single number used up there, and the argument is airtight. It's almost a shame that newfangled stats got dragged into it. It obscured the real case for Trout. It let the initialismophobes run amok, allowing baseball writers to use their hyper-macho histories as ex-Navy SEALs and former all-state athletes to poke fun at the people they're assuming weren't cool in high school. But Mike Trout had the most old-school argument of all-time.
In at least one game every day during the season, an announcer will wax rhapsodic about the abilities of a speedy leadoff hitter. When he reaches base, things happen. He distracts the pitcher. He manufactures the runs himself instead of off-shoring them. It's supposed to be one of the purer aspects of the sport.
That same announcer might say something about how "defense wins games." Keeping an opposing player off base is just as important as getting on base, the idea goes. It's a truism that's usually invoked to explain why a punchless middle infielder is playing, or why a first baseman is still valuable even while he's slumping, but it's not a controversial theory.
But then these number-loving perverts came around with their "batting average" and "runs batted in" and tried to obscure all of that with their numbers, these abstractions of what really happened on the field. Miguel Cabrera had to be the MVP because Curtis Granderson didn't hit two more home runs. Does that make any sense? Nope. Why should Curtis Granderson's season have any effect on the MVP voting if he's not a candidate himself? I'll tell you why. It has an effect when you're someone who hugs the numbers like a flannel woobie.
Whatever makes you feel comfortable. I mean, if you love numbers that much, go ahead. What does RBI even stand for? Everything in baseball is all about RBI and HR and LOL and WTF these days, and I'm sick of it.
Miguel Cabrera deserved to win an MVP at some point in his career. He happened to have an excellent season in a year when other players didn't rack up the counting numbers around him. Whatever. It's not like they gave the MVP to Jeff Mathis because he called a good game. Cabrera is a great player, and he isn't an embarrassment to the award.
I just don't know how this turned into a referendum on stat aficionados. What happened to the old-school baseball fans I used to know? They're all about the numbers now.