Trout? Cabrera? Doesn’t matter much. They both had MVP seasons

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A quick thought on the Miguel Cabrera-Mike Trout MVP race.

As you might know, I had a vote this year. And I voted for Trout. I suppose that won’t be a shocker for anyone on this site. I’ve never hidden my strong opinion that while Cabrera’s the best hitter in the game, Trout is the best player in the game. Last year, Trout had what is almost certainly the best season for a 20-year-old in baseball history. This year, he had one of the best for a 21-year-old.

Best seasons for a 21-year old in no particular order:

– Mike Trout, 2013, .323/.432/.557, 39 doubles, 27 homers, 33 SBs, led league in runs and walks.

– Rogers Hornsby, 1917, .327/.385/.484, led league in slugging and with 17 triples during Deadball Era.

– Rickey Henderson, 1980, .303/.420/.399 with 100 stolen bases and 111 runs scored.

– Cesar Cedeno, 1972, .320/.385/.537 with 39 doubles, 22 homers, 59 steals and 103 runs scored while playing in the hitter-unfriendly Astrodome.

– Eddie Mathews, 1952, hit .302 and led league 47 home runs. He also had 135 RBIs and 99 walks.

And so on — Jimmie Foxx in 1929, Ken Griffey in 1991, Andruw Jones in 1998, Ted Williams in 1939, Frank Robinson in 1957, Ty Cobb in 1908 and so on. Most of the great 21-year olds became Hall of Famers. Mike Trout really is a phenomenon.

In my view when you totaled up everything — power, getting on base, defense, speed, base-running — Trout was simply the more valuable player. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and talked to a lot of people. That was my call.

But that’s not the main point here. The main point here is this: I’ve come to believe with these awards that, sure, there are often players I believe deserve to win who do not. But that’s just about opinions. I think the larger question to ask is this: Did the person who won the MVP award have an MVP season? Did the person who won the Cy Young Award have a Cy Young season?

Sometimes they don’t. The Cy Young Award has been particularly shaky. Mark Davis, Steve Bedrosian, LaMarr Hoyt, Pete Vuckovich, Mike Flanagan, just as a starting point … I just don’t think any of them had Cy Young seasons. They had seasons that were illusions because of high win totals or high save totals.

And it’s true for MVP. I don’t think Dennis Eckersley had an MVP season when he won the MVP in 1992. I don’t think it was close to an MVP season. He pitched just 80 innings, and did not have a markedly better season than Jeff Montgomery, Duane Ward, Doug Jones, Jeff Russell or a half dozen other relievers. He pitched for a great team that won a lot of games, he had helped redefine that position, and voters liked him. The problem with 1992 was not that Roger Clemens or Kirby Puckett or Robbie Alomar or numerous other more deserving candidates did not win the award. The problem with 1992 is that Eckersley did not have an MVP season but won anyway.

I don’t think Andre Dawson had an MVP season in 1987 — he led the league in home runs and RBIs which impressed everybody. And it was impressive. But that was a reflection of his home park; and he was actually quite dreadful on the road (.234/.288/.480). His WAR that year was 15th among players who got votes. Tony Gwynn, who hit .370/.447/.511 or Eric Davis with his 37 homers and 50 stolen bases or Dale Murphy, who actually had a better season than either of his MVP seasons, were MUCH better candidates for MVP. But once again, my big issue is that Dawson simply did not have an MVP quality season.*

*Conversely in 1982, when Dawson had a fantastic season that was absolutely of MVP quality, he finished 21st in the MVP voting.

We can keep going with this. I don’t think Willie Hernandez had an MVP season in 1984 — it would be awfully tough for me to believe a reliever could pitch enough innings to be the most valuable player in the league (though Hernandez did throw 140, way more than the modern closer). Don Baylor did not have an MVP season in 1979 — he was a DH/lumbering outfielder who slugged more than 100 points less than his own future teammate Fred Lynn. Jim Konstanty certainly was not the most valuable player in 1950 — a year when Stan Musial had a Musial year and Eddie Stanky had a .460 on-base percentage and scored 115 runs and so on.

And the point: Miguel Cabrera this year had an MVP quality season, no question about that. He had an MVP quality season last year too. He’s a fantastic player in his prime. It’s easy, when you get caught up in the argument, to forget the greatness of Cabrera and the greatness of Trout. They both had legitimate MVP seasons and so did Josh Donaldson and Robbie Cano and throw in Chris Davis and Evan Longoria too. I voted Trout but it’s not like the BBWAA gave the award to Jim Johnson because he had 50 saves or Prince Fielder because he had 100-plus RBIs. They gave it to a great player who had a great season.

I will say that I wish there hadn’t been voters who put Adrian Beltre and Dustin Pedroia and (my head hurts) David Ortiz ahead of Trout. But that’s a different story and didn’t matter anyway.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 7, Cubs 5:  I realize anything can happen in any given game, but I’m not sure that “40-year-old soft-tosser two years removed from baseball due to all kinds of elbow problems will allow only two runs on three hits over six innings against the World Series champs” would be a bet I would’ve made before the season. That’s what Bronson Arroyo did, though. And get this quote from Miguel Montero:

“He’s a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he’s throwing below hitting speed right now.”

Slowness: the new inefficiency. Montero is obviously joking here, but sometimes I wonder if we’ll see something of a junkball revolution some day soon. Pitchers are ahead of the hitters for the most part these days due to all the hard stuff they throw. Makes you wonder if hitters adjusting to that won’t create a little bit of daylight for some crafty dudes to come in and flummox people.

Astros 6, Rays 4: Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. It would be the only runs the Rays would score, however, and the Astros clawed back. Evan Gattis tied it in the ninth with a sac fly and then Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel each hit RBI singles.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning but the Orioles did not claw back. Obviously the game’s outcome was secondary to the storyline that began with Manny Machado‘s hard slide on Friday that hurt Dustin Pedroia and continued with Matt Barnes throwing a ball at Machado’s head here. That’s dumb, but it may be that the post-attempted-beanball was less dumb than the postgame chatter. First Pedroia apologizes to Machado on the field by saying “it’s not me,” which, OK, cool. But then after the game he says this:

“I had nothing to do with that. That’s not how you do that, man,” Pedroia said afterward. “I’m sorry to him and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away.”

Does that mean that the problem to Pedroia, for which he apologized, was not that someone threw at Machado’s head, but that someone threw at Machado’s head on Sunday instead of on Friday or Saturday? I dunno. Still, that’s not as dumb as this:

Good to see we’re about to enter a new, era of unwritten rules and clubhouse politics. The “veterans are responsible for controlling relief pitchers” rule. I fully expect someone to get on Chris Davis or whoever now for not controlling Britton and keeping him from commenting on the dynamics of another team’s clubhouse. Because this idiocy never ends.

Phillies 5, Braves 2: It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth when Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera hit back-to-back-to-back homers. The first two came off of Arodys Vizcaino, the third off of Ian Krol. The Phillies sweep the Braves and win their fourth in a row overall. They’re 9-9 after 18 games. Which is the first time they’ve done that since . . . last year, when they were 9-9 after 18 games.

Pirates 2, Yankees 1: Ivan Nova outdueled Jordan Montgomery, allowing only one run on four hits over seven innings. He also, somehow, walked Montgomery, who had not batted in a game since he was in high school six years ago. It was Nova’s first walk issued all season.

White Sox 6, Indians 4: The Sox snap a three game skid thanks to a strong outing from Derek Holland and a few runs for a change. Cleveland had blanked them on Friday and Saturday, holding them to a total of six hits in those two games. Here Melky Cabrera drove in a couple. The Indians’ five-game winning streak ended.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 4: Mike Leake scored a run in the third inning and hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in a 2-2 game in the fourth. Oh, he pitched too, allowing two runs over six.

Tigers 13, Twins 4: The good news: Chris Gimenez didn’t allow any runs in his outing today. The bad news: Chris Gimenez is the Twins’ backup catcher, and when your backup catcher is pitching, something has gone wrong. Here what went wrong was Kyle Gibson allowing seven runs on eight hits before the third inning was even over. John Hicks, filling in for the injured Miguel Cabrera at first base, hit a three-run homer and a two run single. Just about everyone on the Tigers had a good day as they scored 13 runs on 13 hits. Tyler Collins went 0-for-5, though, which has to feel weird. Andrew Romine flew out to center against Gimenez, which has to feel weirder.

Rangers 5, Royals 2: The Rangers complete a four-game sweep of Kansas City behind eight strong innings from Yu Darvish. It was Darvish’s longest outing since elbow surgery two years ago. Homers from Joey Gallo and Robinson Chirinros.

Rockies 8, Giants 0: The Rockies swept the Giants in Coors for the first time in 15 years. Baseball seasons are long and a lot of stuff happens, but one feels like the Giants’ entire season went into the crapper the second their plane landed in Denver on Wednesday night. Since then they lost their ace for an extended period to a minibike accident and then they got outscored by the Rockies 26-8 in this series. That’s four losses in a row for San Francisco, and six losses in their last seven games.

Blue Jays 6, Angels 2: Marcus Stroman tosses a complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits. Devon Travis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer during a four-run eighth inning. Jays manager John Gibbons got ejected after Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch and batter Kole Calhoun was awarded first base. That’s not a call you see every day.

Mariners 11, Athletics 1: Nelson Cruz homered an drove in five and Yovani Gallardo got his first win as a Mariner. Taylor Motter hit a grand slam. I’m angry that Motter played on Saturday too, though, because if he had had the day off I totally would’ve written “Welcome Back, Motter.” Now I can’t say such a hacky thing. Sigh.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 2: L.A. avoids a three game sweep thanks to Brandon McCarthy‘s seven strong innings of work. The Dodgers scored all six of their runs in the fifth inning. That’s the inning Shelby Miller left due to tightness in his forearm, so they were likely facing some damaged goods, unfortunately. Two driven in a piece for Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal, with the former doubling in two runs and the latter coming up next and driving in the former with a homer.

Marlins 7, Padres 3: Miami scored six runs in a single inning as well. That was the sixth, which was capped by a Justin Bour three-run homer. Up until that inning Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo had cruised. Then the first six Marlins batters reached in the sixth and it was Gas House Gorillas time:

Nationals 6, Mets 3: Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam against his old team. His career line against the Mets: .386/.421/.727, 8 homers and 25 RBI in 22 games. But I’m sure no one with the Mets or any Mets fans have taken the slightest bit of notice of that.

Hunter Pence appeared as guest on Bill Nye’s new show

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Bill Nye — yeah, “the science guy” — has a new show on Netflix called Bill Nye Saves the World. His show ties science to other areas such as politics, pop culture, and sports. Giants outfielder Hunter Pence was invited to appear as a guest.

Nye talked a bit about Pence and marveled at the dedication players must have to stay competitive in the sport. Nye called Pence “a cool guy” and “charming,” which is not surprising.