Cabrera Victim of Circumstance in MVP Race

Who are we kidding? Miguel Cabrera is not winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
And it’s not because of anything he has or hasn’t done.

In any other year Cabrera’s story of redemption would be a much bigger story. It’s just that this year Josh Hamilton‘s road to redemption will likely be more appealing top voters given the obstacles he’s overcome and the fact he’s playing on what’s assuredly a playoff team.

Hamilton, who’s still nursing sore ribs after running into an outfield wall in Minnesota on Sept. 5, has eye-popping stats: a major-league best .361 average, 31 home runs, 97 RBI and a 1.049 OPS.

[callout title=Tigers Often Fall Short of MVP]
Of course, this isn’t the first time a Tigers player has been the victim of the voters’ love affair with players on winning teams.

In 2007, Magglio Ordonez lost out to Alex Rodriguez, and in 1990 and ’91, Cecil Fielder lost out to Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken, respectively.

The most egregious example of the a Tigers player falling short of the MVP award was in 1987 when Alan Trammell did everything right: hit for average, hit for power, played clutch baseball down the stretch and led his team to a division title.

But it still wasn’t enough.

Toronto’s George Bell — who went 1 for 11 against the Tigers in a division-deciding, final-weekend series — won the award. (You can read the post from 2007 in which I wrote about this, here.)[/callout]

Cabrera, as we know, is putting together a year for the ages himself: .333 average, 34 homers, 116 RBI and a 1.052 OPS.

Consider this, though: Cabrera has 30 intentional walks this season, the most in the majors. Hamilton? Five.

What would Cabrera’s stats look like if he’d had the protection of Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and a more consistent Brennan Boesch all season long? Would it be enough to tack 30 points on Cabrera’s average? Doubt it.

Still, Hamilton has the protection of guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. That has to account for something … maybe a lot.

The big difference between these guys is one number: 9.

That’s the number of wins the Rangers have over the Tigers at the start of play today. Which means that even though writers cast their votes for awards before the postseason begins, Hamilton will be playing in October and whereas Cabrera will not.

Miguel Cabrera can mount a challenge to Hamilton over the next three weeks but it likely won’t change the minds of voters who see Hamilton’s stats, triumphant personal story and winning team as irresistible.

I hope I’m wrong.

What do you think?

Two for Tuesday

A couple of quick hits:

  • Buster Olney reviews the Tigers’ active — and decisive — off season so far.

    [W]e’re not even out of the second week of November, and the Tigers already have put together a lineup that will be formidable, and a rotation that has a chance to excel. 

  • We all know Magglio Ordonez is going to finish second to Alex Rodriguez for the A.L. MVP award, but that doesn’t mean he will walk away empty handed this winter. Fans can vote for Ordonez as baseball’s Hitter of the Year in the sixth annual This Year in Baseball Awards.

So Craig Monroe‘s back in the division? Wait until Twins fans get a load of that one-handed-rally-killing swing.

20 Years Later, a Tigers Player Again Comes Up Short in MVP Award

The chances of the Tigers’ Magglio Ordonez winning the American League Most Valuable Player award seem to dwindle every time Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate.

This certainly should not be the case. Ordonez brings these monster stats to the ballpark this afternoon:

  • .360 batting average
  • 53 doubles
  • 28 home runs
  • 137 RBI
  • .431 on-base percentage
  • .592 slugging percentage
  • 1.023 on-base plus slugging percentage

Still, he’s not likely to win the MVP.

A crime? Yes. But only a misdemeanor. When you take a look at A-Rod’s eye-popping numbers through Friday night, you’ll see the main reason why he’s going to win:

  • .309 average
  • 30 doubles
  • 53 home runs
  • 151 RBI
  • .418 on-base percentage
  • .637 slugging percentage
  • 1.064 on-base plus slugging percentage
  • Plays on a playoff team

The Baseball Writers Association of America, the voters of all post-season awards, will likely select A-Rod as the MVP because he’s on a playoff team. That’s because the BBWAA loves winners, plain and simple.

Most of the time.

In 1987, the Cubs’ Andre Dawson took home the National League MVP. The Cubs record? 76-85 good for last place in the N.L. East, 18-1/2 games out.

So much for the winners thing.

That same season, Alan Trammell‘s MVP-caliber year failed to measure up to that of Toronto’s George Bell—at least in the minds of the writers. Bell put together a phenomenal year. But, unlike Trammell, he failed to deliver when it counted: with his team’s season on the line. We’ll get to that shortly.

One can argue that Ordonez’s season, backed by a stratospheric batting average, shouldn’t be dismissed merely because the Tigers won’t be playing in the postseason and because Rodriguez and the Yankees will. Let’s face it: that’s going to be the reason Ordonez doesn’t win.

While it’s not the first time we’ve heard this argument, it wasn’t applied in 1987.

Looking at the final 11 games of the 1987 season, Trammell appeared to have pulled ahead of Bell for the MVP award. Over that span—in which Detroit played seven thrilling, one-run games against Bell’s Blue Jays—Trammell hit .381 with two homers and six RBI. More impressive was his performance in the seven games against Toronto: .417, one home run and four RBI. In fact, Trammell delivered the game-winning hit in the eleventh inning on the next-to-last game of the season, a win that put the Blue Jays on the brink of a historic collapse.

As for Bell, his ’87 campaign didn’t end quite as impressively. In his final 10 games, including three games at home against the Brewers, Bell batted a modest .250 with no home runs and just two RBI. In the final series against the Tigers in Detroit, Bell hit an anemic one-for-11 with no RBI.

In the end, and despite a career year, Trammell narrowly lost out to Bell in the MVP voting. Bell captured 16 first-place votes to Trammell’s 12 in one of the closest ballots in baseball history. Trammell and the Tigers advanced to the A.L. Championship Series; Bell went home to San Pedro de Macoris.

The BBWAA loves winners? Not so much. At least not in 1987.

Twenty years later, Tigers fans will find themselves holding out hope the BBWAA will see Ordonez’s 2007 campaign as superior to A-Rod’s.

Chances are, Ordonez will find himself in the same position as Trammell in ’87 and Cecil Fielder in 1990 and 1991: long on stats, short on hardware.