Despite winning the first Triple Crown since 1967, there is still an argument over who deserves the American League MVP award for the regular season: Miguel Cabrera or Los Angeles Angels rookie phenom Mike Trout.
Those in favor of Cabrera point to his .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBI—all league-leading statistics.
Cabrera also led the league in slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. He did all of this while switching (back) to a new position across the diamond.
Trout put together an eye-popping rookie campaign as well, earning his place in the MVP argument. His batting average was just below Cabrera's at .326. He hit 30 homers, scored 129 runs and stole 49 bases, all while playing Gold Glove-worthy defense in center field.
The (probable) tie-breaker between Cabrera and Trout?
Miguel led his team into the postseason while Trout's Angels sat at home and watched the postseason from the comforts of their homes, spending their days teeing off on the golf course rather than teeing off against opposing pitchers as Cabrera's Tigers did.
The final vote for the MVP award was cast before the playoffs began, so the postseason performance by Cabrera won't have any effect on this year's vote, however perhaps given his disappearance in the most clutch of moments necessary, it is a consideration the Baseball Writer's Association of America should consider for future votes.
If Cabrera was rewarded with extra first-place votes in the MVP race because he got his team into the postseason, shouldn't he also be judged on how his team finishes their ultimate postseason quest—a World Series title—based on his contributions?
In five games in the American League Division Series against the Oakland A's, Cabrera batted just .250 with only five hits in 20 at-bats. He had just a single RBI in the series. Omar Infante (.353) and Quintin Berry (.300) were the Tigers' batting leaders in the ALDS. Austin Jackson led the team with three RBI, followed by Delmon Young's and Prince Fielder's two RBI apiece.
In the American League Championship Series sweep against the Yankees, Cabrera was better, batting .313 with a homer and four RBI. Four of his teammates hit better than he did against the slumping Yankees, though.
It was Young that earned the MVP award for the LCS on the strength of his six RBI and .353 batting average, not Cabrera.
And with the Tigers on the verge of elimination in the World Series, currently down 3-0 against the San Francisco Giants, what has Cabrera done to help his team?
He has disappeared in the World Series, to the tune of a .222 batting average. No extra-base hits. No runs scored. Just a single RBI to his credit.
Not that the rest of the Tigers lineup has been able to do much against the Giants pitching staff. San Francisco has held the Tigers to just three runs through three games and has back-to-back shutouts.
In fact, for as much scrutiny as is placed on Cabrera (and to a slightly lesser extent Fielder), just as much praise should be showered on the Giants' stellar pitching staff and their dominance this World Series.
The MVP should step up, though, and take the team on his back. Cabrera has been the opposite. In fact, the argument could be made that Cabrera will be viewed as a goat for his disappearance in the most clutch situations he has faced all season.
Cabrera came up in the fifth inning of Game 3 against Ryan Vogelsong with the bases loaded and a chance to drastically change the outlook of this series. Instead, Cabrera popped up to the infield and ended the Tigers' chances at a game-changing rally.
As baseball fans, we place such an importance on how our stars perform in the postseason. We value their worth based on how clutch they perform in the ultimate situations with their team's championship aspirations on the line.
Just like his teammate Justin Verlander last season, Cabrera appears to be the regular-season MVP and a postseason failure.
Verlander won the MVP and Cy Young awards on the strength of his 24-5 regular-season record and 2.40 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts and innings pitched. He faltered in the playoffs, though. Although, he did post a 2-1 record in the 2011 playoffs, his ERA was above 5.00 as the Tigers lost the 2011 LCS to the Texas Rangers.
Not exactly a representation of the best player or pitcher in baseball.
Like Verlander, Cabrera's season appears destined to be remembered as a great—historic, even—regular-season performance followed by a forgettable October that appears set to help the Giants win a World Series rather than the Tigers.
It makes you wonder if there is a better way of evaluating how we determine the "most valuable" player in the league.
Cabrera was the best hitter in the game in 2012, there is no taking that away from him.
He has already won the 2012 Sporting News Major League Player of the Year award based on his regular-season performance.
Perhaps this is the award that should be based on the regular season while the MVP award takes into consideration a player's postseason contributions as well.
Maybe greater importance should be placed on recognition of the player who wins the LCS MVP award and the World Series MVP award instead of the award based on regular-season performance?
A player can get hot for the small sample size of a seven-game series. though. A star player can go cold, albeit in the most inopportune moment of the season.
The regular-season statistics are frozen on the final day of the season for a reason. Postseason performances don't diminish the accomplishments of those stats based on the 162-game marathon that got them to the playoffs in the first place.
In this case, at the end of 162 games, we had a pair of historic seasons.
One by a rookie, who appears destined for great things, and one by a player who won the first Triple Crown since 1967 and added his name to a list of greats that includes Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb (among others) who have accomplished the feat.
Perhaps making the postseason should be just a tiebreaker in cases where two players, such as Cabrera and Trout, both had remarkable seasons worthy of the MVP award. A player disappearing in the postseason can just erase that so-called tiebreaker.
Maybe baseball has it right exactly how it is, placing the greatest importance on the award based on the largest sample size?
Wouldn't it be nice, though, to see the importance we place on postseason performances reflected in the award that identifies the best player each year?
So far, the probable MVP award winner has been a virtual no-show in the postseason, and that needs to be remembered as much as the Triple Crown that propelled him to the top of the MVP debate as well.
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