For Miguel Cabrera, 2013 turned out an awful lot like 2012.
The Detroit Tigers star, who has ascended to the throne as the best hitter in Major League Baseball, won his second straight American League Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday night. Two in a row puts Cabrera in pretty rare company, and given his utter dominance over the sport in recent years, the question can at least be raised:
First, let's point out that, once again, Cabrera won the award handily, earning 23 of a possible 30 first-place votes, according to the Baseball Writers' Association of America. That's actually—and somewhat surprising to many—an increase from last year, when he received 22 tallies for first place (out of a possible 28).
He did this despite a grassroots-but-growing outcry for a shift in thinking—and more importantly, voting—toward recognizing the more all-around, sabermetrically friendly game of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who came in second both times.
Back-to-back second-place finishes don't happen all that often. In fact, it hasn't happened in more than 20 years:
But back to Cabrera's quest to catch Bonds. Speaking of back-to-backs, here's a look at the players who have won MVP in consecutive seasons:
|Players Who Won Consecutive MVP Awards|
|Miguel Cabrera||AL||Tigers||2012, 2013|
|Albert Pujols||NL||Cardinals||2008, 2009|
|Barry Bonds||NL||Giants||2001, 2002, 2003, 2004|
|Frank Thomas||AL||White Sox||1993, 1994|
|Barry Bonds||AL||Pirates/Giants||1992, 1993|
|Dale Murphy||NL||Braves||1982, 1983|
|Mike Schmidt||NL||Phillies||1980, 1981|
|Joe Morgan||NL||Reds||1975, 1976|
|Roger Maris||AL||Yankees||1960, 1961|
|Ernie Banks||NL||Cubs||1958, 1959|
|Mickey Mantle||AL||Yankees||1956, 1957|
|Yogi Berra||AL||Yankees||1954, 1955|
|Hal Newhouser||AL||Tigers||1944, 1945|
|Jimmie Foxx||AL||Athletics||1932, 1933|
Even with Cabrera's repeat, only 14 players have ever been the MVP twice in a row. Clearly, just claiming two straight is no easy feat. And what's really telling is that only one player out of the 13 previous winners (not counting Cabrera)—Bonds, of course—has even managed to three-peat as an MVP.
Basically, it's Bonds at back-to-back-to-back-to-back...and no one else with more than back-to-back.
So as utterly dominant as Cabrera has been in 2012 and again in 2013, reaching Bonds is going to be a tough challenge.
For one thing, he will be turning 31 next year. While it's a safe bet that he'll have at least a few more campaigns at or near the top of his game, it's easier to see him starting to approach his inevitable decline rather than staying similarly productive (or much less, getting better) going forward.
Plus, 2013 brought the first real evidence of any sort of serious injury problem, as he was hampered over the second half by lower-body ailments, including leg, quad, groin and abdomen issues, the latter two of which eventually required offseason surgery.
He'll be all set for 2014, of course, but that many injuries to the same general area could be a possible indicator that Cabrera, a big-bodied player, may not hold up physically as well as he has through the first decade of his career.
Plus, there still is that whole Mike Trout obstacle (let alone the entire field of AL players). The 22-year-old's career has gotten off to a historically great beginning. And slowly but surely, the phenom is gaining steam as being recognized as the best overall player in the game.
That's this writer's opinion, too, even though Cabrera was the MVP pick.
It's quite possible that the reason Trout hasn't managed to push the vote closer in the past two seasons is because the Angels disappointed in 2012 and were a sub-.500 club this year. The Tigers, by comparison, have won three straight AL Central crowns.
If the star-studded Angels can turn things around in 2014 with Trout driving the bus, he would have a strong MVP case.
For now, though, it's worth celebrating the fact that Cabrera just became the 14th player ever to win two consecutive Most Valuable Player awards.
Can he get two more to match Bonds' four in a row? Perhaps a more relevant question is: Can Cabrera first become only the second player in history to pull off an MVP three-peat?