Why Miguel Cabrera again tops this MVP ballot: Playing for a contender counts

11/14/2013 7:57 PM

11/12/2014 3:05 PM

The American League MVP race, which ended Thursday with Miguel Cabrera breaking the tape for a second straight year ahead of Mike Trout, didn’t lather up folks the way it did a year ago.

Cabrera won it just as easily as he did last year as the game’s most dangerous hitter and toughest out. Twelve months ago, though, a passionate case was made by the pro-WAR crowd for Trout.

Trout, of course, does things that Cabrera can’t, flying around the bases and scaling outfield walls.

And the day he does so for a contending team, he could very well wind up with an MVP.

Playing for a contender matters in my mind along with outstanding performance.

Cabrera was the main cog for a Detroit team that would play for the AL title. Chris Davis, whom I voted second, was playing meaningful games for Baltimore into the final week of the season.

Davis, a former Rangers first baseman, single-handedly kept Cabrera from a second straight Triple Crown, finishing as baseball’s leader in homers (53) and RBIs (138).

Trout, who impressed again as a sophomore, dropped to third on my ballot as his Los Angeles Angels laid an egg. It wasn’t his fault, but he wasn’t as valuable to a distant also-ran as Cabrera and Davis were to clubs that stayed within striking distance of the playoffs throughout the season.

And no player was as valuable as Cabrera, who hit a baseball-best .348 with 44 homers and 137 RBIs, not to mention the game’s top on-base and slugging percentages and many others, despite languishing through the final five weeks with an injury that required off-season surgery.

Facing the Tigers’ toughest division rival, Cleveland, Cabrera did his most damage. He’s also considered a better third baseman by baseball people than he is perceived to be by defensive metrics.

At this point, all that could prevent a three-peat, in my mind, would be an early-season injury that lingers or Trout playing for a contending Angels team.

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