By Scott Barzilla

Clocking in by 5:45 AM has a way of limiting radio options. I usually go with local sports radio when I am in the car, but on the way to work that isn’t an option. Their shows don’t begin until six. So, I am left with ESPN Radio and Mike and Mike (Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic). Golic played in the NFL for nine years, so he is understandably a football guy. Greenberg didn’t play anything and tends to be sold as the more sophisticated one. So, when he brought up the American League MVP race I thought we were going to see some common sense truth come out. Boy was I ever wrong.

Greenberg began by introducing the fact that the triple crown might be the rarest achievement in all of sport. Of course, a 2000 yard season for a running back (or 5000 yard season for a QB came to mind), but that is neither here nor there. For baseball, that might end up being the case because no one has done it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. This is all relevant because Miguel Cabrera now leads the league in batting average and RBIs. He is only two home runs shy of leading the league in all three categories.

In an “if..then” statement of epic proportions, both Mikes postulated that if Cabrera is that close to winning a triple crown then he must be the league’s most valuable player. I used to think so in junior high when I collected baseball cards. Beckett Magazine used to extoll the triple crown as some sort of mythical event that only the giants of the game could ever obtain. It has only been done by thirteen guys and it has only happened fifteen times.

This is where they busted out the second logical fallacy by listing all the great players that have never done it. This is where we begin to break down their particular logic with logic of our own. There is a difference between the difficulty of something and it’s relative importance. Players aren’t stealing 100 bases anymore which makes Billy Hamilton’s 155 steals this year in advanced A ball and AA that much more remarkable. While it might be a rare achievement and it might be a difficult achievement, is it the most important achievement?

Mike and Mike seem to think so and they threw out the idea that it is perfectly obvious that Miguel Cabrera is the MVP this season. Really? I’ll guess I’ll be your huckleberry. Unfortunately, those two aren’t familiar with a statistic called WAR (wins above replacement). See, I have no doubt that Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball this season, but that doesn’t make him the best player in baseball. His value becomes virtually nil the moment he leaves the batter’s box. That is only where Mike Trout’s value begins. WAR is one of those statistics that looks at the entire player.

  • Mike Trout: 10.3
  • Miguel Cabrera: 6.3
  • Josh Hamilton: 4.0
  • Derek Jeter: 2.4

What a minute. Why did I include Derek Jeter? Well, we’ll get to that one in a minute. This race was over before it started. Cabrera is a deserving candidate and would win in most seasons, but few people outside of Los Angeles and the SABR community understand what a unique combination Trout is. He is second in the AL in batting, but has managed to hit 27 home runs in less than five months, leads the league in runs scored despite not being called up until late April, and leads the league in stolen bases. Did I mention he is running away with the sabermetrical Gold Glove award in center field?

Simply put, there are numbers and then there is value. In this case, value is described with a number. Trout’s season is not only worthy of the MVP award, but when you consider that he made his debut in late April you have to count his season as one of the best seasons of all-time. Let’s forget the fact that he is only 20 and that this is his first full season. His season won’t go down as the best in the history of the game for a position player, it deserves to be in the conversation.

Now, we get to Derek Jeter. Apparently, Mike Greenberg thinks he should be in the MVP conversation. Such things should not be allowed to be said on public airwaves. I had to pull over and spit out my breakfast. I love the fact that Jeter is proving some people wrong, but he is proving that he can still play, not that he is the most valuable player (or even most valuable Yankee).

Just some friendly advice to the two Mikes. Please stick with football. Your knowledge of baseball is alarmingly limited. At the very least, if you want to discuss who the awards winners should be then bring in someone that actually knows what they are talking about. Miguel Cabrera might win the triple crown and that would be a great achievement if he did, but Mike Trout is still the going away winner of the MVP this season.

 

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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