At the outset, let’s just establish that I really don’t care about the triple crown. Like, at all. It’s a neat curiosity, I suppose, and Cabrera certainly had a great season as a hitter, but declaring that leading your league in three particular statistical categories automatically qualifies you for the MVP is silly, and that’s before we consider that one of those statistics is batting average, a metric so goofy that no one would take it seriously but for the fact that the guy who invented the box score thought that taking a walk was unmanly. I’m not trying to take away from what Cabrera did at the plate, but Trout is simply the best player in baseball right now, without question, and had far and away the best season in 2012 That he’s an elite base runner and defender while Miggy is…not…is more or less without contention, but the much overlooked fact of the matter is that Trout is also the better offensive player of the two. For as good as Cabrera’s season was, for example, Trout had a higher wOBA and wRC+ than he did, and if those stats are too “advanced” for you, he also had a higher on base percentage, and his OPS was a mere 0.036 points lower than Miggy’s. With a gap so small, the vast difference in base running (which is absolutely a part of run creation) more than makes up the gap in Trout’s favor.
What I find most amusing about the “debate,” however, is how incredibly shrill the reactionaries are getting, and how much they dispute their own ostensible arguments. Note, for example, that for as much as the “traditionalists” rant about “stat geeks” who ruin the game with their “spreadsheets” and need to “watch an actual baseball game” sometime, they’re now the ones arguing that the MVP should be handed out on the basis of a slavish desire to statistics, while the supposed basement dwellers are imploring them to use their eyes and see that no baseball player on the planet has held a candle to Trout in 2012. I would say that’s a fun recent development, but truth be told it’s always been the case. The old-guard isn’t actually “anti-stats,” they’re merely dogmatically devoted to the handful of stats that were relevant to the public ~50 years ago, and their real complaint is that the vernacular of the game is changing, a fairly big problem for an aging professional writer. And don’t even get me started on the idea that Cabrera deserves extra points because, after 160 games and with fewer wins than six other A.L. teams, the Tigers managed to put away the worst division in all of baseball.
That said, I mostly expect Miggy to win the award, because I’m sort of pessimistic about these things and because I think the novelty of the accomplishment will win out, sort of like Verlander winning it last year. Unfortunately the only reaction I’ll be abe to muster to that is a flippant “whatever” because, again, I really can’t bring myself to care about it that much. It’s not that I’m taking the conciliatory pose I’ve seen elsewhere that it wouldn’t be a travesty if Cabrera won it or anything, because it very much will be, but because I’m quite confident that history will ultimately pass judgment in Trout’s favor no matter the outcome. The traditionalists are simply dying off these days, so no matter whether or not they manage to make a last stand here or on some other award vote, some time in the not so distant future baseball fans will look back on a Cabrera victory and laugh at the decision in much the same way we already laugh at Juan Gonzalez winning the MVP.