Miguel Cabrera cruises to American League MVP award

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The debate has raged on for months. And now we finally have a winner.

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera was named the American League MVP this evening by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Despite the impassioned and often contentious arguments dating back to the summer, the balloting wasn’t all that close.

Cabrera received 22 out of the 28 first-place votes to finish with 362 points. Angels outfielder Mike Trout got the other six first-place votes and finished in second place with 281 points. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre received one second-place vote — over Trout — and finished third. He was the only player other than Cabrera or Trout to get a second-place vote. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton rounded out the top five on the ballot. Full ballot results can be found at BBWAA.com.

Cabrera won the award on the strength of the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, leading the American League in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139). While the Triple Crown functioned as a “trump card” for many voters given that we went 45 years without one, Cabrera also led the league in slugging percentage (.606), OPS (.999), total bases (377) and extra-base hits (84).

Cabrera couldn’t touch Trout’s contributions on the basepaths or on defense, prompting the debate about all-around value and the true meaning of “most valuable,” but the narrative for him to win the award was strengthened by a variety of factors, including his move to third base to accommodate Prince Fielder, his strong performance down the stretch and the Tigers making the playoffs. Still, it’s safe to say that the Triple Crown had just enough cachet left to give Cabrera the edge over Trout.

This is Cabrera’s first career MVP award. He came close two years ago, but finished second to Hamilton. Justin Verlander took home the hardware last year, so the Tigers have MVP award winners in consecutive seasons.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.