Tablet Sports

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

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.

Jeff Wilson’s American League MVP ballot

1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

2. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

4. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

5. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics

6. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

7. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

8. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

9. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

10. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians