History was made! Well, not quite. When something has happened several times before, it isn’t quite historical or record breaking, but by golly, it has been too long since we’ve had a Triple Crown winner in baseball.
The MLB hype machine needed something to leech off of since they shut down Stephen Strasburg – the replacement of choice is the impressive season that Miguel Cabrera was having for the Detroit Tigers. By leading the American League in average, home runs, and runs batted in, Cabrera captured the holy grail of offensive accolades: the Triple Crown. Before we give this man the keys to the city, I just want to remind you that you can spell “Triple Crown” without MVP.
Call it blasphemy, call it high treason, heck, you can even call it a Chuck Knoblauch-sized error, but before we so readily hand over the Most Valuable Player award to Cabrera, we have to play devil’s advocate.
As mystical and historically significant as the Triple Crown is, it is an honour that comes in degrees. It is not like having a 40-home run, 40-stolen base season wherein there are plateaus you must reach, but rather a season-long contest in relation to the rest of the field. To be fair, being in the 40–40 club is a lot more exclusive, having only happened four times. As for the Triple Crown, we have now had 17 separate instances. Sure it is rare but not nearly impossible.
Furthermore, we have to put the Triple Crown into perspective. Major League Baseball is a fractured league. There is the American League and National League, both functioning somewhat independently. Imagine them as provinces within the country of MLB. They differ in rules in some regards, and assign their own set of awards. No other major sports leagues do this. There are two MVPs, two Cy Youngs, two Rookie of the Years and yes, even possibly two Triple Crown winners. How does this make sense? As incredible as Cabrera’s season was, he technically only led the MLB in two of the three categories. He trailed San Francisco Giant Buster Posey in batting average by a mere six points. Was Miguel Cabrera a Triple Crown winner? Yes, but only in the American League.
For a sport that hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski managed the feat in 1967, there is temptation to give Cabrera the award. There is much talk surrounding rookie sensation Mike Trout and the fabulous season he is having. Some would say he deserves the award. After all, his team, the Angels, finished with a better record, in arguably a tougher division. But, to be honest, it is difficult to look away from the glimmer and shine of three crowns.
Trout’s phenomenal defence and his superb base running ability is not enough to shake the notion that history should be rewarded. After all, the MVP is traditionally an offensive merit badge, versus an accolade attributed to highlight reel catches, and blazing speed around the base paths. If history comes into play, we have to bring in a little recent history to refresh our memories about just what the award is for.
In 2005, there was a huge stink made about the American League’s MVP candidature. Boston’s David Ortiz had a monumental season, hitting an even .300, with 144 RBIs and 47 home runs. He was in the mix, along with Alex Rodriguez, the eventual winner, however baseball purists argued that David Ortiz shouldn’t get any consideration. The reason being was that he was a designated hitter meaning he didn’t play defence. Of course, these were American League rules, so why not give out an award within a league based on the specific rules it respects? In order to be most valuable, you had to play catch as well. All those who say Cabrera is the obvious MVP have to consider the same fact.
Cabrera plays in the field, but his defence is nothing special. He tied for fourth in his league for errors at his position. So, what is worse: a player who doesn’t play defence or one who plays it poorly?
Mike Trout is as much in the MVP picture as Miguel Cabrera. He will win the Rookie of the Year, most likely a gold glove as well, and will go on to be a cornerstone of the Angels for many years. He does not deserve the MVP, however. Miguel Cabrera does, but not because of his Triple Crown.
Cabrera holds the tie-breaker in this neck-and-neck race because of some simple wording in the definition of MVP. The award is given to the player who is most valuable to their respective teams. How valuable can you be if your team doesn’t make the playoffs? It may seem insignificant to some, especially since Anaheim won more games, but come October, the field of MVP candidates should be sifted through a post-season filter. Miguel Cabrera never fell through, and he will lead his Tigers into the playoffs…as the MVP.