Jayson Stark’s piece this morning is nothing short of brilliant, with his usual and unique historical perspective on how fortunate we are to watch Miguel Cabrera. Which we are.
I well remember the 2003 World Series, when Roger Clemens brushed back the 19-year old and he hit the next pitch into the bleachers for a three run homer, and saying to whomever was sitting next to me, “are we watching the first October of a Hall of Famer?” I remember this spring training, when after Ron Gardenhire went on for 20 minutes about why Cabrera “is the smartest hitter I have ever seen,” doing an informal poll on the most intelligent hitter in the game. And never got another name, for setting up pitchers and, like Barry Bonds and Ted Williams, knowing how pitchers want to get him out and preparing for that pitch he knows is coming.
I simply enjoy Miguel Cabrera, and feel fortunate to watch him hit, marvel at his utter lack of anxiety when he is in the batter’s box. That is what we’re supposed to do—enjoy. These awards are not mathematical puzzles to be solved and quantified. I study and appreciate WAR, but it is not an absolute that can judge the true human value of a pitcher versus a position player. These awards need not result in snarky, superior vitriol, especially the MVP, for which I have voted somewhere around 20 times. In the case of the American League MVP, my ballot would have been different than that of Jayson Stark, because I feel Mike Trout was the best player in baseball in terms of all those things that win—baserunning, defense as well as offense—and that he was punished because the Angels’ pitching, defense and overall depth was inferior to that of the Oakland Athletics. The fact that Cabrera’s last five weeks were injury-hampered and that he had three extra base hits after Aug. 26 was another factor, and, now that the playoffs have made September more important than any time in the wild card playoff era, one could argue that the injuries help send the Tigers into the position of knowing that if they ended up playing the Red Sox in the ALCS, Boston would have the home field advantage, Fenway, where everything is gonna be alright.
There never will be any absolute right in these. I was in Boston for most of their home games this season. I usually am at the park by 1-1:30, I watched Dustin Pedroia, who tore his thumb the first day of the season and played injured the entire season with it, pushed and prodded his teammates to take that daily 30-45 minute infield drilling by defensive coordinator Brian Butterfield (and I mean prodded) and impacted almost every teammate with his intense refusal to give in to any concept of losing, and when it came time to sign a contract extension, had no problem telling Ben Cherington he could defer whatever he needed whenever he needed it if it meant signing someone who could give them a better chance to win.
WAR me no more on Dustin Pedroia, there’s no quantifying him, or many elements in the game.
I wish there was some magical way we could all be at every team’s park at 1:30 many or most days, but it doesn’t exist. So I stick to my belief that Trout is not only the best player in the game today, but was the most valuable player to his team in the American League, as I believe, even more strongly, that Andrew McCutchen was the most valuable player to his team in the National League.
And appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to watch Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Paul Goldschmidt, Dustin Pedroia, Andrelton Simmons and many others. Being right is not the issue. Enjoying baseball is.