Is Mike Trout Doomed To Be The Forgotten MVP?

I had a whole different idea for a post today.  I had even started a draft about how the BBWAA should be ashamed of themselves, especially Bill Ballou, the hack who voted Mike Trout 7th in the MVP ballots, and the fact that his vote was even allowed to stand, knowing that anybody who would vote Mike Trout 7th in anything remotely related to baseball is clearly not in possession of his mental capacities, shows how flawed the system is.

But my editor, Mike Hllywa, stole my thunder when he quite effectively enlightened us regarding Mr. Ballou’s hypocrisy yesterday.  If you haven’t had a chance to read about it yet, you can here (I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up).  My favorite lines include:

You go and give some cockamamie statement about the importance of an MVP candidate being on a contending team, but forget that you placed not one, but two players who played on non-contending teams ahead of players who actually appeared in the postseason. Do you think we are dumb, sir? Did you think we wouldn’t notice that?

And Brandon McCarthy earned himself a follow on Twitter when he proved he can provide gems like these:


So instead, I’m contemplating the question: is Mike Trout is doomed to be forgotten as the true AL MVP and condemned to miss out on being recognized as he should because the Los Angeles Angels as a team under-perform?

Oct 6, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) reacts after hitting a double against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

And all of this caused me to challenge the entire concept of the award and how it’s bestowed, because there was no such controversy with regards to the NL MVP award.  Andrew McCutchen won that without leading any National League offensive category.

So what is it exactly that makes a player “most valuable”?  Is it that they’re on a team that makes it to the playoffs and the fact that a team doesn’t advance means that a player’s contribution is less valuable and therefore shouldn’t be rewarded?  Is it that they’re an incredible offensive force and leader in many statistics?  Is it that they hit an incredible amount of home runs and have accomplished this feat when they weren’t expected to, like Chris Davis?

Sep 22, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) on deck to bat during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Or is the MVP something more?  Is the “Most Valuable Player” someone who exceeds in one area of baseball to the exclusion of all else, or should the player be not only proficient, but excel in all aspects of the game?  Should how the team performs have any relevance in deciding an individual award?  Should prior accomplishments have significance considering the MVP is awarded annually?  Is a veteran more qualified to be MVP because he’s played more years in the league, or is a younger player just as deserving if his merits are objectively evaluated?

I have been pondering these questions ever since Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP for the second straight year.  Of course, everyone’s talking about the outcome, each has their own opinion, and because the writers’ votes are now public, most write their justifications for voting the way they did.  Most people have billed the past two year’s debates on the MVP race as old school vs. new.  WAR vs. offensive production.  Every argument that’s made for Cabrera as MVP is the same: he’s better than Mike Trout in the offensive categories (batting average, RBIs, OPS, etc.) and the Detroit Tigers made the playoffs.  You can read one such justification by Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, if you’re so inclined.  And yes, a lot of the debate around Trout being MVP centers around WAR, but it’s not where the case for why he’s entitled to it ends.

Last year, my brother-in-law, Steve, was one of those people who argued the case for Cabrera to be MVP over Mike Trout until he didn’t want to bring it up any more because he was double teamed about how wrong that was by both my sister, Vanessa, and I.  “Triple Crown” winner, hadn’t been done in blah, blah years, was the assertion for Miggy to be MVP.

Some people also said that it was to commemorate Cabrera for winning an award that exists only in title, the Triple Crown, but what of this year?  He only led in one of the offensive categories that the Triple Crown is comprised of: batting average.  Chris Davis was the leader for the other two: home runs and RBIs.  This is not to say that it was the only statistic Cabrera led in, he also led in OPS and OBP.  But Trout not only lead in WAR (by a large margin), he also led in walks and runs.

I remember a somewhat similar debate a few years ago when discussing which player should win the Cy Young award.  Should the pitcher’s record and the record of the team he plays on be taken into account?  Or should the award be based on the pitchers’ performance itself, independent of the team’s overall record and the pitcher’s win/loss record, because those are things that aren’t controlled by only the pitcher, but also by how the team performs on the whole when that particular pitcher is on the mound.

Sep 2, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In 2010 Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award.  He finished the year with a record of 13-12, the Seattle Mariners ended the season with a losing record at 61-101.  It seems the same writers who uphold the team advancing to the playoffs as the benchmark standard when scrutinizing who to name as MVP were able to reason out that the pitcher’s performance should be evaluated on its own, independent from team’s performance, which worked out well for Hernandez, since obviously the Seattle Mariners didn’t do well that year, and his efforts were acknowledged and honored.

But, apparently, the same can’t be said of the AL MVP award.  Can the best all-around player in baseball be on a losing team and receive the acknowledgement that he’s provided all the positive influence he can because what he brings to the team was the entire reason they were as successful as they were?  Does that demonstrate that he’s earned MVP?  Can said player’s performance be evaluated on its own worth, outside that of the team he plays on?  According to the BBWAA, no.  Though it’s an individual award, how the team performs effects the MVPs ability to be named as such by them.  And from reading the rationalizations put forth, how Miguel Cabrera performed offensively outweighed everything Mike Trout did offensively, defensively, and on the bases combined.

I dispute the notion that what makes a player most valuable is the fact that his team makes it to the playoffs and he’s an offensive force who’s mediocre in the other elements of the game.  Shouldn’t the MVP be the best all-around player in baseball?  Based on how the BBWAA have awarded the MVP the last two years the answer is again no.  Referencing Mr. Ballou again, here’s what he said on the subject:

  If the award were Player of the Year, Trout would get my vote.

To that I say: Why are they two separate things?  Shouldn’t the best player of the year be the MVP?  I’ve yet to hear or read any reasoning that convinces me they should be different.

By naming Cabrera MVP last year, the voters purposely ignored all components of the game other than offense as part of the equation, because everyone knows Miguel Cabrera’s defense is average at best, and he’s not exactly fleet on the basepaths.  That they have chosen to repeat this is either willful ignorance of or blatant disregard for all other aspects of baseball and those of us who appreciate it.  Because according to the 25 members of the BBWAA who voted Cabrera MVP, the best player in baseball isn’t, and doesn’t deserve to be recognized as, the MVP. Jeff Passan wrote a scathing commentary on the subject, which I rather enjoyed.

What all this goes to show that the BBWAA are somehow able to separate individual performance from that of the team in order to award some of their accolades, but same courtesy evidently doesn’t extend to the AL MVP award.  So while Trout may be baseball’s best all-around player, until the Angels as a team meet the criterion of making it to the playoffs, it seems he’s destined to be overlooked as MVP, even though he deserves it.  Who’s to say they’ll recognize him even then, if they’re unwilling to do so now.

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Tags: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim Miguel Cabrera Mike Trout Mvp

  • Busychic

    This is so true! All the BBWAA are hypocrites, because for the Cy Young award they’re able to separate individual achievement from the team, but for the MVP who SHOULD be the best all-around player in baseball, they aren’t able to. Shame on you in general BBWAA!!!! There were only a handful of you who recognized that Trout’s numbers were even better this year than last year, and that he deserved to be the MVP even though the Angels as a team were abysmal. Very well-written, and yeah Brandon McCarthy DEFINITELY deserves a follow now!

    • VirginiaT

      Thank you. Obviously I agree with you in regards to the BBWAA and Brandon McCarthy, I started following him on Twitter, lol.

      • [email protected]

        Trout was far better than the writer had selected him. Miggy is still by far the most dangerous hitter at the most critical opportunities. Trout fans and WAR fanatics will downplay vital aspects that are not included in measuring value. 37 go ahead RBI ‘s to tie for the lead this season just as Cabrera led last season in the same category are not factored in but opponents realize how clutch Miggy is. The go ahead RBI stat is a new stat kind of like the WAR as was the GAME WINNING RBI stat some years ago. Ask the Players and managers who they would select, my bad, they already did.

  • BadWolf

    MVP= Most Valuable Player, meaning his team wouldn’t have had as much success (regardless how modest) without him.

    Best Player Award= Simply that, the first player you would pick to play for your team. What is the measure of a “Best Player” would depend on how much weight is given to each offensive/defensive category.

    Perhaps Miguel Cabrera wins simply because the feat of capturing the triple crown (each category long being deemed as vital to the measure of a good ball player) is such a rare accomplishment that it puts him above (for that year) other players who might be more proficient in other categories. I suppose this would eventually lead to the argument that a player with really good players on his team would be less likely to win the MVP due to the fact that the skill of the others could make up for the loss of said player. I suppose that is why you would need the two separate awards.

    • VirginiaT

      I understand the argument you’re trying to make, but using your own logic, Mike Trout is still more valuable than Miguel Cabrera because he carried the Angels all year long. Just think about how much worse the team would’ve been without EVERYTHING he contributed and you can see how even there, he’s the MVP.

      • Gordon

        Virginia, please check out the teams that did so well in Stolen Bases and Defensive Range and it’s glaring how all the teams near the top didn’t make the playoffs and the teams that struggled went deep into the playoffs. HMMM, maybe Value should be placed on statistics that provide your team with a better opportunity to win, such as hitting with runners on base or 2 out hitting when runners are on base.

        • Michael Hllywa

          Or maybe, those teams are just built better.

        • VirginiaT

          I appreciate your enthusiasm for Miguel Cabrera as a hitter and what he’s able to to with runners in scoring position, etc, but that’s a stat that is dependent upon the runners in front of the batter not only getting on, but remaining on base and moving into scoring position, which means it’s conditional to how people other than the individual play. I understand that you place greatest importance on hitting and how the team does, but those are elements that are contingent on others and not controlled by one person, so how are they the best measure when deciding an individual award?

          • [email protected]

            I can understand your and other fans passion for Mike Trout. There seems to be a belief that the player with the best skill set is the best player. Many experts that cover Football and or Baseball believe that the most skilled players in their respective sport are Cam Newton and Mike Trout. Does this make them the best player ? ? maybe. Does it make them the most valuable, NO ! Why would Newton be passed over by Tom Brady and P. Manning this season, because MVP isn’t a future award it’s a this season award. Why is Mike Trout passed over by Miguel Cabrera. Like Brady and Manning in football, Cabrera comes us big in big moments much more than many of the closest superstars. Respect is earned when in multiple critical opportunities a player succeeds to help the team to victory. Are Brady, Manning and Cabrera the most physically gifted players, HELL NO. The skills they have are Leadership and Clutch performers.
            There are statistics that are weighted in value such as WAR to determine Value. How are those VITAL aspects of Leadership and Clutch calculated in measuring value in WAR, oops they are not ! Now ask why the Players and Managers voted Cabrera as their MVP.
            Give Trout “hope Injury Free” EXPERIENCE and he may be the player that constantly comes up big in critical moments where he is feared by the majority of players and managers. I think he can be that guy in time.

        • [email protected]

          I agree, it’s important to create opportunities, it’s vital that the opportunities are not wasted. Who is the best player not only in succeeding in bringing home the runs but to continue the opportunities for others to have that big run producing inning, Miguel Cabrera !
          Since the Angels have spent so much in Hamilton and Pujols, then to try and move Trout from batting first seems like a move of desperation. Trout is understanding how to create opportunities for others with his OBP and SB abilities. Trout in the 3rd slot, not unless the Angels trade one of the two. All that money spent and then have one of them batting in the 5th hole where they will lose numerous opportunities for Plate Appearances, what a waste. They didn’t pay either of the two for their past on defense, but to deliver in vital opportunities at the plate.

  • Clarence R Todd Jr

    I wouldn’t have had an issue either year with Miguel Cabrera winning if the vote would have been closer. The disparity of the voting creates the sham that this is. Mr. Ballou should have his voter card turned in, he voted Chris Davis of the Orioles as MVP (#1), he of the 85-77 Orioles who finished 6.5 games out of the wild card, guess what team was next in the standings….the team with #7 in the MVP voting, the Angels.

    • VirginiaT

      I totally agree that his voter card should be revoked. Such idiocy should not be rewarded with the continued privilege of a vote, especially when the rationalization he claims to use isn’t actually adhered to as described by him when he votes a player from a non-contending team #1. I also agree that the discrepancy in the votes should have been less given that by its very first rule (as written and available in full on the BBWAA website) they should take into account:
      1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
      “strength of offense AND DEFENSE,” but in every justification, Cabrera’s offense carried so much more weight than Trout’s offense and defense combined that it catapulted him to #1. I’m not quite as sure, however, that I wouldn’t have had an issue with Cabrera winning if the vote had been closer. It would have made it a bit more palatable, sure, but considering I’m still convinced that the best player in baseball deserves to be league MVP, I’m pretty sure I still would have taken issue with the best player missing out again.

  • Gordon

    The final vote should have been further apart. When will value be determined by statistics that lead to victories. Look at the past 3 season the teams that have gone deep into the playoffs. Those teams struggle in SB, Defensive Range, Hitting into DP’s but they do great in hitting with runners on base and 2 out hitting. Trout is blown out by Cabrera in Clutch hitting. Please Trout fans check Yahoo Situation Stats. Over the Past 3 Seasons Miggy has DOMINATED MLB in hitting when Opportunity with runners on base and with 2 outs.

    • VirginiaT

      That’s your opinion, and you’re certainly entitled to it. I happen to disagree that what makes a player “valuable” is by being the very definition of one-dimensional on a team that makes the playoffs. I already addressed the team performance issue, since it’s an individual award, it should have no bearing, but obviously it does, as how it’s been bestowed has proved. You assert that because Miguel Cabrera was the best hitter on a team that went to the post season, that he not only deserved to be MVP, but that it should have been by an even greater margin than last year, when he won the lauded Triple Crown. This thinking aligns with that of the BBWAA, as shown by the fact that Mike Trout received more first place votes last year when the Angels won more games. Yet Cabrera only, as you put it, “dominated” in one category that makes up the celebrated Triple Crown this year, which was the argument for him to win last year. Which means that you, along with the BBWAA, place greatest importance on two things, one element that shouldn’t even be considered for an individual award (team performance), as well one aspect of baseball above the others, offense (whether that happens to be with RISP or not) over defense and base running in making a complete player and assigning value to that player. I happen to contend the case isn’t as cut and dried as you would like it to seem because a complete player does things other than hit balls at the plate; he also plays defense in the field and runs the bases. I’m also not so sure you can call him so “dominant” this year when Chris Davis led in home runs and RBIs, not Cabrera. I maintain that the player’s performance in its entirety should be considered. Baseball is comprised of more than hitting, that was the point I was trying to make. Obviously your opinion is the same as that of the BBWAA, and you’re welcome to it, but I’m just as entitled to mine as you are yours.