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Two excellent seasons in baseball. Two players with incredibly high value to each franchise. And one argument that is ruining it for everyone.
Sports arguments don't matter, nor should they. I think most of us understand that. They exist so we may say to one another, "Hey, I don't know you, but we can still talk about this common topic of interest." ("Also, love your avatar!")
For sportswriters, it's their job to synthesize the logic and analyze these trivial matters. It means a lot to them. And many of them do it well often, including the select few journalists I'm about to mention.
[you close this tab]
No, wait! Come back! it's also about you and me and the way we are debating this.
[you reopen the tab]
Thank you for the second chance. I'll make it up to you. Much like RBI and WAR are flawed statistics, the Internet is in some ways a flawed medium to host a continental exchange of ideas and arguments.
To some writers, they're done with the debate in their minds. They were done a month ago. There's not even a question who the MVP is to them. It's Mike Trout. Everybody else has been worse at baseball than Mike Trout this season, so stop arguing about it, because you're stupid.
Then we have Rob Parker, a sportswriter that Detroit gets to call our own. Yippee? This may not specifically have been a pro-Cabrera argument, but it still serves as a beacon of pathetic behavior during sports arguments:
To all the stat-geeks that follow @keithlaw: please put ur calculators down and watch the damn game. That's why the A's haven't won jack.— Rob Parker (@RobParkerESPN) September 26, 2012
Then on Monday came the always provocative Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, who has made a career out of fascinating articles, with an article on why Trout is the MVP. I like Passan. Specifically I've enjoyed the way he's shined a light on the hubris of the Miami Marlins' owners. He keeps hacking until he hits bone, then pulls out the saw. So maybe it comes with the territory that he'd say something like this:
For the Cabrera Truthers, please read: The no-nonsense, no-spin, no-BS truth why Mike Trout is AL MVP. yhoo.it/SwVrG2— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 1, 2012
My understanding is that the term "Truthers" refers to not just any logic-dismissing wingnut, but a specific group which believes the United States government helped facilitate terrorist attacks on their own country on September 11, 2001. He made some great arguments in there, but Passan took one line, one phrase, and froze the conversation in its tracks by comparing people who think Cabrera is the American League Most Valuable player to people who believe in conspiracy theories.
In fairness to Passan, he did respond to my shock at his use of the term. He did not mean to refer to that particular conspiracy, but rather "someone who throws out reason, logic and sense to espouse something crazy." I'm sure his intent was pure but this still falls under the umbrella of trying to chill the conversation by calling people who think Cabrera should be the MVP illogical and crazy. And based on some respondents on Twitter, I am not the only one to make that connection to 9/11.
But this is the point we've reached. This debate has been hyped as a clash for the ages between traditionalists and Sabermetricians. RBIs vs. WAR. A slow, power-hitting veteran vs. a speedy, brash young leadoff hitter. Justin Verlander's MVP vs. Jered Weaver. A blue-collar city of Detroit vs. the glitzy California metropolis of Los Angeles. The players are so different! The dividing line is huge!
It really isn't. Not to make this about politics, but every year it seems to me that both Democrat and Republican nominees are more similar to each other than we're led to believe. The same is true of Cabrera, Trout and what they mean to each franchise.
You may have heard Cabrera's 40-plus home-run season is the first by a Tiger since Cecil Fielder. The franchise history is long but the list of great hitters isn't. Ty Cobb was the best hitter on a planet that had yet to experience color film. Greenberg and Cash and Horton never had the longevity, or as much power. Bobby Higginson: LOL. The list of recent "great" hitters is probably Al Kaline — and he fell just shy of 400 HR — and now Cabrera. Ever since he slapped on the "24," he was touted as the greatest Tigers hitter since Kaline, a sentiment shared by Kaline himself.
We as a fanbase may finally have a once-in-a-generation hitter to call our own. Ever since the retirement of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, there's never even been a true All-Star position player. Until this year, the Comerica Park home run leader was Brandon Inge.
But Trout is the exact same hope for the Angels. The franchise has existed about 50 years, but how many great hitters have they featured? Rod Carew showed up in the twilight of his career. Maybe Vladimir Guerrero or Torii Hunter, but I identify them with other teams first. Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds ... the list is chock full of solid players with excellent careers, but nobody that pops out as a true generational hitter. Mike Trout played roughly one full season and already has the 24th best career rWAR in Angels history. At age 21. They're thinking, wow, four or five more seasons like this and Trout could become the greatest Angels player ever, according to Wins Above Replacement. FINALLY.
The age, experience, body type, and 40-times are galaxies apart. But both teams are champing at the bit and remain fervent about their most valuable player for the same reasons: we've never had a player like this on our team for a while, if ever. Both are correct, and both have produced historic seasons. They've both been absolutely awesome stories this season, becoming soured by a close, arbitrary decision of whose season was better.
Someone will win the MVP and the other will finish second. This is where we, as emotionally-invested fans and rational individuals, need to accept reality: we are not wrong, nor do we have control over this. We've made our point. Miguel Cabrera has made his point, too. The Tigers are in the playoffs. Cabrera might earn the Triple Crown. Let's enjoy the rest of the season, because that ALDS is going to be stressful as hell.