Is the Most Valuable Player award a simple, cut-and-dried task like it was last season with Joe Mauer, or in the past with Albert Pujols? No. Is it debatable nearly every year, with multiple candidates having good arguments for the award and only one being allowed to win? Yes.
I say that not to diminish my argument, but to point out that I think we get far too fired up about whether the writers got it right or wrong, when in most years it's a series of shades of gray and the correct answer to one individual is not necessarily the correct answer. Because there really isn't one correct answer. No one statistic, no measurement of what a player meant to his team, no split of offense to defense ratio, no requirement whether a player be on a playoff team, or anything else.
It's fun to debate who should win (let's stop with the calling of everyone, sports writer or otherwise, idiots). But given the inherit debatablility, I think we probably give the award more import than it deserves.
That said, Miguel Cabrera should be AL MVP.
Jon Paul Morosi wrote on Fox Sports the rules voters are supposed to follow:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
So, to review: Who cares about rules 4 and 5? Rule No. 3 is not an issue for any of the players (Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista) who are most often involved in the discussion.
Games played? I'm not even worried about that. Qualified for the batting title? Good enough for me.
So that leaves us questioning actual value to a team. I think it's safe to say that while valuable to his team, the Yankees would still be pretty good without Cano. So I'm not going to spend a lot of time on him.
The Rangers would still be pretty good without Hamilton. Not as good, of course. He leads the league in OPS and batting average. He's obviously a talented batter. He's a talented outfielder, too. But hey, they still have Vladamir Guerrero to fall back on, right? 112 RBI, 29 HR. Oh, hey, what about Nelson Cruz? .944 OPS, 22 HR. As for winning, hey, the team still has Cliff Lee pitching and three starters not named Lee with ERAs under 4.00. The Rangers aren't a playoff team because they have Hamilton. They are a playoff team because they are really good.
So let's inspect Cabrera? Hat-tip to Rogo at the required-reading DesigNate Robertson for stat-gathering for his article, making my life easier.
Cabrera's American League ranks: 1st in on-base percentage. 2nd in slugging average. 1st in driving in runs. 1st in being intentionally walked because there were no threats to hit the ball after him in the lineup since June. 2nd in home runs. 3rd in batting average.
He may be sixth in Wins Above Replacement, but I don't think punishing first basemen is the best way to hand out an award. So he's third in the batting plus fielding portions of the stat.
Does Cabrera have a single batter on his team that you would consider all-star quality? Not this year. Maybe Magglio Ordonez, but he was lost for nearly half the season. Austin Jackson? You can certainly debate he is all-star quality though I suspect it would be a harder argument to make outside Michigan. No Tiger who would qualify for the batting title even has an OPS over .758. No player has more than 67 RBI. No player has more than 15 HR. Without Cabrera, the Tigers would have flat-out struggled to score runs, thus to win games, this year. Meanwhile the Tigers' team pitching ranks 12th in the AL.
Yet they sit at an 80-78 record with four games left. They were 80-76 when Cabrera last played a game before being lost for the final six with an ankle injury. A .500+ team without him? Never would have happened. .400 seems a lot more likely.
Am I going to cry the world is unfair and the writers are biased against Detroit if Hamilton wins? No. He's a great choice.
But I just think if we're looking for a player who was very valuable to his team and a star in the league, Cabrera is the best choice. He should win the 2010 AL MVP.