I don’t use the word “hero” very often, but Brandon McCarthy is the greatest hero in American history.
Mike Trout had an off-the-charts season, a historic season, and I certainly will not argue that [Miguel] Cabrera is the better all-around player. Trout is an astonishingly great all-around player, the “best” player, if you will.
Postseason, though, is the ultimate goal for every team. We more “traditional” baseball journalists do tend to weigh postseason appearances highly when it comes to the MVP because, really, what else is value for? Cabrera got his team to the playoffs. Trout did not. There are lots of variables involved, I realize that, many of them out of each player’s control, but this was the area that made just the slimmest bits of difference for me: In August, Cabrera had an on-base percentage of .429 and an OPS of 1.092 and September .395 and 1.071. Trout’s August numbers: .366 and .866 and September: .400 and .900.
Many of the stats brigade argue that looking at arbitrary dates, say from Aug. 1 on, isn’t valid, and many note that games in June and July – when Trout was putting up absurd numbers – count the same as those final two months. I believe, and this is just my own opinion, that the pennant race does mean something extra. I absolutely expect that Mike Trout will have some extraordinary stretch-run performances in his career. This year, that guy was Cabrera.
Now, along with looking at all the measures possible, including WAR (which this year probably will reflect more in my votes for the 3-10 places), I also talked to lots of people in the game: scouts, execs, players. I talked to baseball-crazed friends, just about anyone who might have an interesting take, and this year everyone does. My husband, Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, is a BBWAA member but did not have an AL MVP vote; he would have voted for Trout, though, as he indicated in the paper on Sunday. So even our household is split.
Every player I spoke to, and I talked to at least a dozen A’s and other AL players, leaned toward Cabrera – except for one: Brandon McCarthy, the A’s starter and a man with such a deep knowledge of advanced metrics, he has used them to redefine his career. McCarthy is among the smartest, if not the smartest, athlete I’ve covered in 24 years in the business, and I respect his opinion enormously when it comes to sabermetrics. He doesn’t just understand them, he puts them into actual practice.
McCarthy argued vehemently for Trout, and he said he tried to find every possible reason to vote for Cabrera as an intellectual exercise, but he just couldn’t do rationalize it.