Miguel Cabrera will be named the American League Most Valuable Player again next week. There’s a good chance it will be unanimous, and if not, it will be pretty darn close. Yet, factoring in defense and baserunning, it’s very easy to come away with the idea that Mike Trout was the better player. Of course, many of those voting for the award believe that “best” and “most valuable” are not synonymous.
So, let’s run with that idea — that the best player and the most valuable player aren’t necessarily one and the same — for a minute. I mean, I can go along with it, to an extent. If this other-worldly player was a derisive force in the clubhouse — say he was one of those guys drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse between DH at-bats — you could ding him. Or maybe if an outstanding player was credited with giving his teammate a tip that made him better… well, that would add to his value without affecting his WAR.
But how about money? It’s pretty much indisputable that the guy hitting 30 homers making $500,000 is helping his team more than the guy hitting 30 homers while earning $20 million (let’s give them the same WAR, too). But it seems completely verboten to discuss money in MVP talks. Certainly, I’ve never seen a voter bring up a guy’s salary in defending his vote.
I think that’s silly. If we’re going with the idea that it’s the Most Valuable Player and not the Best Player, then money absolutely should factor in. I imagine there are a couple holdout major league general managers who would still rate Cabrera as a better player than Trout, but even they wouldn’t actually trade Trout for Cabrera given the difference in salaries. No sane person would. Cabrera made $21 million last season. Trout earned $510,000. Why, if the Angels had to pay $21 million for Trout last year, they probably wouldn’t have been able to sign Josh Hamilton! Where would they be right now without him?
OK, bad example. It doesn’t destroy the point.
Personally, I’m in the Best Player camp, so I don’t care what kind of cash they’re making. But for those arguing that valuable means something different entirely (RBIs and good teammates, mostly) and that no stat could ever truly encompass it, well, salary needs to be factored into that value component, too.