I'll bet Miguel Cabrera can't do this. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Baseball Progress Slowed by Mitch Albom


Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to get over Mike Trout losing the MVP race to Miguel Cabrera.

I had been prepared for it for some time now. And as Saxon pointed out the other day, 22 men is not a lot. Even MJ is taking it reasonably well.

Then, this happened. Click the link. Go ahead, I’ll be here waiting.

….Still waiting….

….You’ll only lose a few brain cells I promise….

Now that we are all dumber than we were a few minutes ago, let’s proceed. Just to reiterate, Miggy isn’t a bad MVP choice, he’s just the wrong one. When it comes to a productive middle of the order bat, he has few equals. And I’m sure you all remember that we could have traded Howie Kendrick, Ervin Santana and Brandon Wood to the Marlins to get him (I’m working on a time machine as we speak). So to bash him is unfounded, as I’m sure we’d all love to see him suit up as an Angel.

That being said, Mitch Albom is an idiot. I don’t normally resort to such coarse language, but I wouldn’t want to let any of my big geeky words to get in the way of fruitful conversation or debate. But when you start an article like this:

The eyes have it.

In a battle of computer analysis versus people who still watch baseball as, you know, a sport, what we saw with our Detroit vision was what most voters saw as well:

Miguel Cabrera is the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year.

You’re kind of asking for it. But hey, thanks for saving me money on my MLB.TV subscription. You might want to look into it though seeing as how you aren’t watching that much baseball either. You know, as a sport.

It also answered the kind of frenzied cyberspace argument that never shadowed baseball 20 years ago but may never stop shadowing it now.

Statistics geeks insisted Cabrera was less worthy than Angels rookie centerfielder Mike Trout. Not because Trout’s traditional baseball numbers were better. They weren’t. Cabrera had more home runs (44), more runs batted in (139) and a better batting average (.330) than Trout and everyone else in the American League. It gave him the sport’s first Triple Crown in 45 years.

Yeah, Trout simply was not better in traditional categories like stolen bases, OBP or runs scored. Silly stat-geeks.

But Trout excelled in the kind of numbers that a few years ago weren’t even considered, mostly because A) They were impossible to measure, and B) Nobody gave a hoot.

Today, every stat matters. There is no end to the appetite for categories — from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

Like totally STFU. LOL. Who really gives a hoot (that is the only time I will type that word) about unnecessary things like “defensive ability” or “good base running”.” And in case you didn’t notice Mitch Alborn, Cabrera led all of baseball in GIDP, since we’re on this whole acronym kick. And since you inquired, he hit two triples wearing blue underwear, two while wearing green and four while wearing his Spiderman undies. You’re welcome.

So in areas such as “how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim” or “batting average when leading off an inning” or “Win Probability Added,” Trout had the edge. At least this is what we were told.

I mean, did you do the math? I didn’t. I like to actually see the sun once in a while.

Plus he has intangibles
Besides, if you live in Detroit, you didn’t need a slide rule. This was an easy choice. People here watched Cabrera, 29, tower above the game in 2012. Day after day, game after game, he was a Herculean force. Valuable? What other word was there? How many late-inning heroics? How many clutch hits? And he only missed one game all year.

Trout with the advantage in a clutch stat? Do you even remember what you were talking about? And the sun causes things like skin cancer and wrinkles. The fluorescent tubes lighting my parents basement that I’m currently sitting will do just fine. And just a tip, you might want to go with SPF 25, since you’re gonna be watching baseball games and all.

Yes, it’s true, Trout is faster, Trout is a better defensive player, Trout is a leadoff hitter, and Trout edged Cabrera in several of those made-for-Microsoft categories.

But if you are going to go molten deep into intangibles, why stop at things like “which guy hit more homers into the power alleys?” (A real statistic, I am sorry to say.)

Why not also consider such intangibles as locker-room presence? Teammates love playing around — and around with — Miggy. He helps the room.

Oh Mitch, just when I thought you were turning a corner, BAM. Made-for-Microsoft? That’s a new one. Locker room presence? OK, I’ll buy it, but I have a hard time believing that a 21 year old ball of energy who had some pretty funny twitter conversations with then teammate Torii Hunter to be anything short of refreshing to a group of veterans. Whoops, sorry, twitter plus computers equals stat-geek. Someone get me a typewriter, stat.

How about his effect on pitchers? Nobody wanted the embarrassment of him slamming a pitch over the wall. The amount of effort pitchers expended on Cabrera or the guy batting ahead of him surely took its toll and affected the pitches other batters saw. Why not find a way to measure that? (Don’t worry. I’m sure someone is working on it as we speak.)

And how debilitating is it for a pitcher to not only see Mike Trout at the plate, but standing on a base as well? How much did Torii Hunter benefit from a pitcher serving him fastballs trying to keep Trout at first? And still failing to keep him there. Again you are forgetting that game does not start and stop at the plate. And in a way, you can see where pitchers got around Miggy, it’s called the intentional walk. You may have heard of it.

How about the value of a guy who could shift from first to third base — as Cabrera did this past season — to make room for Fielder? Ask manager Jim Leyland how valuable that is.

Except, he didn’t want to move to third, he just didn’t want to be a DH. And if that equates to value, then why us no one talking about how Trout would slide over to left field in the later innings when Peter Bourjos would come in as a defensive replacement for Mark Trumbo? And then continued to play top notch defense at that.

How about the fact that Cabrera’s team made the playoffs and Trout’s did not? (“Yes,” countered Team Trout, “but the Angels actually won more games.”) How about the fact that Cabrera played the whole season while Trout started his in the minors? (“Yes,” said the Trout Shouters, “but the Angels won a greater percentage with Trout than Detroit did with Cabrera.”)

That would be because the Angels did win more games. Imagine Cabrera in a division where pitchers actually know how to pitch instead of feasting on the Royals, Twins and Indians pitching staff’s. And that winning percentage with Trout, was second only to the Yankees.

And can we please, please stop holding it against Mike that he started the year in the minors? It’s not his fault that Mike Scioscia feels compelled to play underperformers like Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells.

Which, by the way, speaks to a larger issue about baseball. It is simply being saturated with situational statistics. What other sport keeps coming up with new categories to watch the same game? A box score now reads like an annual report. And this WAR statistic — which measures the number of wins a player gives his team versus a replacement player of minor league/bench talent (honestly, who comes up with this stuff?) — is another way of declaring, “Nerds win!”

We need to slow down the shoveling of raw data into the “what can we come up with next?” machine. It is actually creating a divide between those who like to watch the game of baseball and those who want to reduce it to binary code.

Guess what? Boxscores, still look like boxscores. Bill James has been doing this stuff since the 70′s. And I’m preeeeetty sure that Dave Cameron, Sam Miller and Nate Silver still watch baseball games. I could be wrong, but I’m probably not.

To that end, Cabrera’s winning was actually a bell ring for the old school. There is also an element of tradition here. The last three Triple Crown winners were also voted as MVP.

Ding ding cherry picker. I really like how you stopped at three. It would probably hurt your argument to mention that Ted Williams lost in 1947 to Joe DiMaggio despite winning the triple crown. Details details. I’m sure someone with a computer could have helped you with that, seeing as how your Rolodex can only hold so much information.

And none of this diminishes the season Trout gave the Los Angeles Angels — and baseball history.

Really? Because it feels like “diminishing Trout’s season” is exactly what you are trying to do.

Rarely has a rookie so dominated on so many levels. It is scary to think that Trout, only 21, will get better. And if he improves even incrementally, who is going to beat him for MVP in years to come?

That’s like saying “you play ball well, for a girl.” Trout’s season was good, period. No player ever, EVER, has put together the kind of season that Mike Trout gave us this year. And it is highly likely that he does not repeat it (see Alex Rodriguez). The BBWAA missed the chance to recognize Trout, and put a marker in the history books, for a season that until now has no match.

Jon Morosi probably didn’t deserve to be called close minded back in September. OK, he did, but at least he wasn’t ignorant and degrading towards a player who could quite possibly became the face of baseball for years to come. It doesn’t matter that there are MVP awards in his future, what matters is that he should have won one this year. But instead of bringing something new to the discussion, you just puffed out your chest and blew more hot air into the room.

It’s December, and I appreciate the free heat, but I think I’ll just go with the stuff that I pay for next time. Moron.

Tags: AL MVP Los Angeles Angels Miguel Cabrera Mike Trout