Settling For Second: An Unfortunate Mike Trout Story
By MJ Lloyd
It was inevitable, really.
Outrageous! (Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE)
Progress is being made. Sabermetrics, for the most part, is not quickly and immediately being dismissed as number-y hokum being spun onto the World Wide Web by basement dwellers on their digital abacus/email machines anymore. Felix Hernandez even won a Cy Young with a paltry and very un-Cy-Young-like record of 13 wins and 12 losses two years ago. But there are stats and baseball lore that still trump rational thought, especially during award season. When it comes to the Triple Crown, well, that is fit for a king. Er, MVP.
That didn’t stop me from rounding up my best torches and pitchforks for Thursday evening. I even found my comfortable riot pants and headed to Twitter for the AL MVP announcement. It came and went and Mike Trout finished second to Miguel Cabrera. The voting wasn’t particularly close either with Cabrera picking up 22 first place votes and Trout getting the other six. Yet I didn’t complain or type with all caps or politely ask Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal how the [choose your own string of profanity] Adrian Beltre finished ahead of Trout. Maybe I took it in stride because I knew it was coming or because I’m older and wiser now or because I already destroyed the patio furniture with a golf club when Trout lost the Gold Glove.
Cabrera isn’t undeserving. He put up typical, insane offensive Miguel Cabrera numbers. Cabrera led the AL in batting average, home runs and runs batted in to win the Triple Crown. The first time the feat has been accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels did not despite having a better record. But those things matter to enough (or too many) of the BBWAA voters. Cabrera had an MVP season, he just did it in a year that saw Trout put together a season for all time.
All of the historic WAR numbers aside, it was clear to the naked eye that Trout played a tougher defensive position and played it well. But Cabrera “selflessly” changed positions because he refused to DH and he wasn’t a complete trainwreck at third base but that didn’t make him good either. Cabrera was arguably better than the traffic cone I projected him to be although the range was similar. Trout added more value on the bases with elite speed and efficiency while Cabrera grounded into double plays with speed found on the Bengie Molina scale. That value can be seen with or without numbers unless you’re blinded by the shininess of the Triple Crown.
At the end of the day, it’s not travesty that Trout didn’t win. It isn’t as bad as Juan Gonzalez winning the MVP twice over almost anybody else. It is a shame that Trout wasn’t rewarded for a season that will be near impossible to repeat. Trout’s 2012 rivals seasons had by Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in their prime. If Cabrera had this season without the home run or batting average lead and the Tigers missed the playoffs, we likely aren’t having this discussion. We’d be rightfully celebrating Trout’s first MVP.
I’ll be hosting a support group on Twitter to help you through these tough times of Trout not winning. Swing by and we’ll make fun of the guy who gave Raul Ibanez an MVP vote. Laughter is the best medicine.