I’ll keep this relatively short because I’m of the mind that these awards don’t really matter that much. They are a fun intellectual exercise and often an occasion for comedy, but they are of little real value beyond that. It’s nice to honor individual achievement with a plaque, but the fact that one player wins and one doesn’t changes nothing about the seasons or the players. It’s just a thing that an exclusive group of writers says.
But I also find myself in an interesting place because the player on my favorite team was the player who won the award that, in my mind, was handed out to the wrong guy. I’m thrilled for Miguel Cabrera personally and I’m really glad he had a great year. I’m thrilled for Scherzer, whom I didn’t vote for but considered a much better Cy Young candidate than Cabrera an MVP candidate. But on the other side, I’m a fan of smart, rational decision-making and good analysis and the MVP voting that helped Cabrera was lacking in that department. I have yet to see a rational case for why Cabrera was the AL’s best player. Or most valuable, if for some reason you think those two words mean different things. If you have a rational case for Cabrera, I want to hear it. Post it in the comments section or e-mail me at NewEnglishD@gmail.com. Maybe I’ll even publish it.
I’ve written about this race at Beyond The Box Score and I wrote about the same battle a year ago in these pages. I don’t have a lot else to say on the subject. Trout was better. The award should go to the best player. Therefore, Trout should win the award. Those three statements are important for this discussion. Let’s consider them briefly to illustrate a point.
Trout was better.
I touched on this above and in the first link, so I’ll keep this short. Mike Trout was the better baseball player in 2013. He had more plate appearances and was Cabrera’s equal when you combine baserunning and hitting and was much better on defense. A lot of the people who voted for Cabrera even admitted to this point. Okay, good.
The award should go to the best player.
This was the talking point this season. Lots of writers argued that in order to be valuable, your team has to be good because there’s no difference between the 70 games the Angels would have won without Trout and the 80 games they did win with him. That’s a silly thing to give out an individual award for, however. What is the value of handing out an award to the best player on a good team? Forget for a moment that the description explicitly says that the winner doesn’t have to come from a playoff team and just ask yourself this. Why would we want to give an award to the best player on a good team? What is that proving? That suggests that an individual award is contingent on the performance of one’s teammates, which means it isn’t an individual award at all.
Therefore, Trout should win the award.
If Trout is better and the award should go to the best player, then Trout should have won. That’s a little obvious, but also important to say. If we aren’t going to give the awards to the player who deserves to win, what’s the point of even giving out the award or caring about it at all?
So here’s the punch line. And this is going to sound strange. The fact that Cabrera won each of the last two MVP awards actually diminishes his accomplishments. I’m a Tigers fan before I’m a baseball writer and I’m actually more upset about this part of it than anything. The MVP has become a bit of a joke, so it’s less meaningful to me that he won it this year. It cheapens Verlander’s award, which I think was more justified. It’s a less prestigious award because of this process. I would be prouder of Cabrera finishing second in an award that matter than finishing first in one that doesn’t.
Several people have mentioned to me that I’m one of the few Tigers writers who sees this thing objectively. I appreciate that, but it also speaks to another important issue. Beat writers, many of whom are great and smart, don’t watch enough baseball to really provide a good vote. The Tigers guys know the Tigers, but they don’t stay up late watching the west coast games because they’re still busy covering the Tigers and going to bed so that they can cover them again. Part of the problem is that some writers are hopelessly lost, but a lot of them just don’t have the exposure to enough players because they don’t have the time. I think that’s another flaw in the system that isn’t any of the voters’ fault.
The rational analyst in me is unhappy with the result, but so is the Tigers fan. Cabrera didn’t deserve the award and the fact that he won anyway makes it less special as an institution. I’m not losing sleep, but I do wish we did a better job on things like this. I mean, we have to do something until they start playing again.
Tonight, Mike Trout lost the MVP race to Miguel Cabrera. We expected as much. Traditional thinking that favors team success in the MVP voting won out and Trout, who had the better season, came in second.
A lot of other weird things happened in the full balloting. Like the couple people who left Cano off the ballot. Or how no one put Torii Hunter, Alex Gordon, or Austin Jackson on their ballots anywhere from 1-10. And how Jim Johnson (who is a great reliever) was anywhere near the voting.
But we should probably take stock of our lives at this point and realize these awards don’t matter at all. The BBWAA hands out these awards based on the preferences of their members. Sporting News does the same thing. Other smaller groups hand out their own. (SABR Toothed Tigers included and the vote was unanimous!)
BBWAA has prominence because they are the oldest. There is history attached, but that’s all. Mike Trout’s season is no less impressive or memorable because he didn’t win the MVP. Neither was Verlander’s because he lost the Cy Young
We get caught up in these races because we like talking about sports, but the actual consequences are very small unless you’re one of the players involved. So while I think a lot of the voting this year and in past years is garbage, it doesn’t really affect my life or yours and I’m not going to bed angry.
Things don’t always happen the way they should. That’s part of life. Mike Trout will wake up tomorrow as the best player from 2012 whether or not he has a plaque to show it. Miguel Cabrera will clear room on his mantle.
While a lot of the conversation surrounding this award was toxic, I think the race was great for the game. Cabrera supporters acted silly by dismissing sabermetrics, but not because they don’t like sabermetrics, but because the only reason they don’t like them is they don’t like what sabermetrics told them.
Sabermetrics are great. They give you a lot of information. It’s silly to dismiss them because you don’t like what they tell you. The people wanted Cabrera to win, so they attacked the method of the people supporting Trout. That’s what I didn’t like.
The Trout crew was also at fault. Honestly, we walked around like the Cabrera supports needed their mittens pinned to their jackets like four year olds. We lost sight of the fact that Cabrera had a great season and deserved to be near the top of the ballot.
We shouldn’t dismiss the human element of the game so quickly just because we think it’s silly. Most valuable player means best player to us in the sabermetric community, but a lot of people think and vote with their gut. MVP is about the story. It is about the narrative. Just because we don’t like that, doesn’t mean that isn’t okay. Narratives are fun.
I didn’t like that this became about stats and tradition, because it was really about evidence and instinct. We who supported Trout like tangible evidence. Those who backed Cabrera care about weaving the evidence together in a way that feels right and exciting.
It’s totally okay that people supported Cabrera for that reason, but they should say so. It should be about liking him or liking the idea of a power hitter or liking the idea of carrying a team to the postseason. But all of those are stories we tell ourselves. It’s baseball mythology and it’s great, but admit that’s what it was and I’ll be fine.
So while I don’t like how angry this got, I love that we were in this position. We watched phenomenal baseball in 2012. Trout versus Cabrera wasn’t a close race for most people (because they strongly favored one or the other), but man was it a fun one. Trout being an all-around star while Cabrera mashed.
It was one for the ages. So was the Cy Young race. And the NL race was awesome two, we just forgot to look. The AL Manager of the Year was razor thin and we got to witness the Year of Mike Trout and the beginning of Bryce Harper.
The Dodgers bought a team and the Red Sox started over. The A’s came from nowhere and the Orioles wouldn’t go away. The Cardinals kept the magic alive and the Rangers crumbled.
Phil Humber threw a perfect game. So did Matt Cain and King Felix, but my god, Phil Humber threw a perfect game. I’ll never forget that. It was during my bachelor party.
Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw pitched brilliantly. R.A. Dickey for crying out loud.
The Pirates had something to say and the Nationals built a winner. Fernando Rodney was a shutdown reliever. Fernando. Rodney.
Bret Lawrie fell six feet onto concrete to catch a baseball and Chris Sale didn’t need surgery.
Baseball was awesome in 2012. It was beautiful and unpredictable and wonderfully cruel.
The Infield Fly Rule Game in Atlanta broke hearts and made dreams come true. Chipper Jones and Omar Vizquel retired, leaving the five year old in me a little confused about where baseball went.
So while this feels like the end of a bitter civil war, it’s really the end of a great chapter in a supremely thrilling novel. On April 1st, 30 teams clung to the hope that this would, in fact, be the year. Only one held on all season.
So we’ll follow trades and free agents and we’ll prepare for fantasy drafts and cactus league games. We’ll stare out the window and wait for spring.
It was a fun season and now it’s really over. Miguel Cabrera won the MVP over Mike Trout, but the real winner was us. We got to sit on our coaches, in our cars, and in our seats and watch this spectacular drama unfold.
This week SABR Toothed Tigers handed out our year end awards for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP in each league.
Here’s a quick recap.
AL ROY: Mike Trout
NL ROY: Wade Miley
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Ryan Braun
The BBWAA hands out their versions on the same awards starting Monday, so here’s what I expect to happen:
AL ROY: Mike Trout
NL ROY: Bryce Harper
AL Cy Young: David Price
NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Buster Posey
The BBWAA has made some really terrible choices in the past, so don’t expect them to get it right. Remember when Neftali Feliz beat Austin Jackson for ROY in 2010 despite playing like 1150 fewer innings?
You can find full articles on every award by clicking the 2012 Recaps tab at the top of the page.