I was all set to write this great piece today about the crowning of Miguel Cabrera as the American league’s Most Valuable Player. Then, of course, the BBWAA had to go and throw a wrench into that by giving the award to Josh Hamilton instead.
I’ve said my piece on the merits of one versus the other. If I had a vote, I would have pegged Cabrera first, Hamilton second. It ended up the other way so I expected I’d be outraged, but instead it feels more like it was always a foregone conclusion that Hamilton would get the award. And I suppose that’s the way it probably should be.
Hamilton got 22 of the 28 first-place votes, with Cabrera netting five. Each of the top four finishers were named on every ballot. There were 20 players in total who got at least one vote. Cabrera joins a lengthy list of Tigers hitters to place second in the MVP vote, the most recent was Magglio Ordonez in 2007. No Tigers hitter has taken home the hardware since Hank Greenberg won his second award in 1940. Four Tigers pitchers have been the MVP since then; Hal Newhouser (twice), Denny McLain, and Willie Hernandez.
Cabrera was a beast all season long. He lead the league in several categories, finished second in several more. But Hamilton was every bit as good as Cabrera was in his own right. Again, I can’t seem to muster up any outrage here.
Regardless of the award, I feel great about Cabrera both as a player and a person. He dealt with the demons that chased him to alcoholism. He is recovering from that addiction and by all accounts, he’s a more focused, more mature human being. Cabrera’s story doesn’t get the press that Hamilton’s story does. I wonder if that is simply due to Hamilton speaking better English and because of his performance in the Home Run Derby of 2008.
But Hamilton is special, no doubt about that. Not only were his numbers great, but when you watch him, and factor in the years lost due to a heroin addiction, you can see that he has perhaps more raw talent than any player in baseball. He is as close to “the Natural” as any player I have ever seen. No doubt the Rays saw the same in him when they made him the top pick in the country back in 1998.
So congratulation to Hamilton and to Cabrera. Not only have they each displayed excellence on the field, but each has faced down their problems and become better men as well. If Cabrera finished second to Hamilton, he’s in good company for sure.