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Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and the MVP debate (un)revisited

Miguel Cabrera had a wonderful game on national television, and the Internet imploded. Who'd have thunk it?


Miguel Cabrera hit three home runs totaling nearly a quarter-mile of distance Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. The first was a majestic, opposite-field shot to right, calculated to be a distance of 453 feet. The second was a screaming 424-foot line drive to center that even had Rangers starter Derek Holland ducking out of the way. The final was a towering fly ball that landed 423 feet away not far from the home run prior.

For the night, Cabrera went 4-for-4 with five RBI and an intentional walk that later led to a run. He's batting .387/.457/.659. Those would all be career highs if he finished the season with those figures. He is 11th on the list of home runs hit by a batter in a Tigers uniform with 194.

Any day is a good day to sit back and marvel at the batter Cabrera is. Alex Avila called him the "Ted Williams of our time" -- lofty praise for a lofty batter. We could debate whether what Cabrera is doing is more impressive than what Ty Cobb did in his time -- but of course, none of us were there and no one can say for sure when 100 years separate the players. (Context-neutral statistics such as OPS+ may attempt to put the argument on even footing, but if we're to have a true conversation on the topic we surely must realize they are but one data point among many.)

But for whatever reason -- this being the Internet, I suppose, is reason enough -- Cabrera's accomplishments cannot be looked at for what they are. They have to be put into some sort of narrative. The prevailing narrative of the night among some was that 2013's batting numbers somehow justifies the MVP vote of 2012 -- or for those solidly on the Trout bandwagon, Cabrera's defensive miscues showed why Mike Trout is actually more valuable than Cabrera. (One tweet I saw sniffed, "MVP defense!" after Cabrera's throw was offline.) Just like that, we are reliving one of those worst baseball arguments of baseball memory -- and why?

Are people seriously so thin-skinned that they must be proven right? (We all know the answer to that is "yes.")

Allow me to lay this out in the simplest of terms: Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP award in 2012. He was a great choice by the baseball writers. Had Mike Trout won, he would have been a great choice, too. They are different kinds of players who do different kinds of things -- the writers saw more value in the kinds of things Cabrera does, and that's fine. What either player does for the rest of the career should not play into that conversation. Both players are a pleasure to watch, and any fan of the game would be proud to have either player on his or her favorite team. Childishly tearing one or the other down so "your" guy can win is unfair.

Debating an award could be a fun thing -- especially the MVP award, which is about as subjective as they come. Yet the ugly argument that emerged from both "sides" last fall failed to rise to the level deserved by Trout and Cabrera, and I am disappointed to see the churlish discussion continuing into this season.

As baseball fans, we live in a wonderful time. We get to see some of the best players to ever play the game, whether in person or on our large high-definition television screens. It's too bad our discourse so often does not match the play on the field.

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