In 1947, Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams hit for a .343 average with 32 home runs and 114 runs batted in. He led the American League in all three categories which constituted him for the rare and prestigious Triple Crown award, the second of his career. However, neither time did he win the Most Valuable Player award.
In 1947 though, the New York Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio recorded a hit in 56 straight games. That’s a record that no player has even gotten close to since.
Fast forward to the present. The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera’s run to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 should be enough to win him this year’s AL MVP, but like Williams, Cabrera faces a breakthrough story.
Los Angeles Angels’ rookie sensation Mike Trout broke into the spotlight this season, leading the league in three major categories; stolen bases, runs scored and the most important, WAR (wins above replacement). That last statistic is used to show how many wins that player added to his team’s record that year. Mike Trout’s was over 10 this season, which is far ahead of anyone else in the league.
Even at the age of 21, Trout’s season accomplishments are no comparison to the goliath record that is DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak.
Miguel Cabrera has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball over the last 10 years. Since starting when he was only 21-years-old, Cabrera has had nine straight 100 RBI seasons. During eight of those nine years he hit over 30 home runs and has a career batting average of .318.
Surprisingly, Cabrera has yet to win an MVP award in his career, coming close in 2010 when he finished second to Texas Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton. Last year, his teammate Justin Verlander became the first pitcher to win the MVP award since Roger Clemens did it in 1986 with the Boston Red Sox.
Cabrera would not be the only player to join the hall-of-famer Williams on the list of players who have won the Triple Crown but did not win the MVP, however. He would also join hall-of-famers Chuck Klein and Yankees’ legend Lou Gehrig.
Is the story of Mike Trout just too good to pass up for the MVP voters, especially when they have always been quick to overlook Cabrera in past years? I’ll give Trout his due just like the next person. He came up in the shadow of Washington Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper. Eventually the story of Trout’s elite numbers were just too good to pass up compared to Harper’s above average rookie season.
If Trout wins the AL MVP, he will become only the third player in Major League Baseball history to win the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Valuable Player Award, joining Fred Lynn of the Boston Red Sox in 1975 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
Now I’m not trying to cast a shadow over Trout’s amazing rookie season, but the biggest factor in defining if a player is “most valuable” cannot be found solely on statistics. Although Lynn and Ichiro’s WAR was nowhere near as high Trout’s was this season, both players were the key component on playoff teams. Lynn took the Boston Red Sox all the way to game seven of the ‘75 World Series losing to the Cincinnati Reds, and Ichiro led the Mariners to win a record 116 games in 2001 before losing in the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees.
Yes, high caliber teammates surrounded both players, but the same can be said about Trout. On paper, the Angels had a 20-game winning pitcher in Jered Weaver, and big names like Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter to drive in runs. They still didn’t make the playoffs.
Cabrera’s Tigers clinched their playoff spot by winning the AL Central Division title. His Triple Crown run is one for the ages, he has the playoff birth, he has the numbers but most of all he has the clutch performances. Cabrera is hitting over a .350 average with runners in scoring position good for one of the best in the league.
I hope that when all the ballots are counted, Miguel Cabrera is the voted recipient of the AL MVP Award. If the award goes to Mike Trout, then I must obviously have a great misunderstanding of the phrase “most valuable player.”