Did Racism Play a Part in the AL MVP Vote?

A tribute to the six who didn't vote for Miggy!

In the end, it wasn’t close—Miguel Cabrera was the runaway winner for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. All Cabrera did was bat .330, hit 44 homeruns, drive in 139, and win the first Triple Crown in 45 years. All is as it should have been—sort of.  There were six “baseball writers” out of twenty-eight who voted for Mike Trout instead of Cabrera. Each of the six—Jeff Passan, Joe Haakenson, Jim Caple, Tim Britton, Roger Mooney, and Sean McAdam—trotted out lame sabermetrics to justify their vote. Who knows? Maybe one or two of them actually believed what they said, but let me offer a different explanation for a few of those votes: racism. Several of those guys are known conservatives and it’s easy to imagine personal preference for Trout over the darker-skinned Venezuelan Cabrera. Call it a vote for the Great White Hope.

Oh, there were sincerity tears shed. Trout, we are told, is a “more complete player” than Cabrera. As if a rookie could be a more polished player than a nine-year veteran. I think Mike Trout had a lovely year, but let’s see if the lad can sustain it before we declare him the next Babe Ruth, okay? We were also told that Trout is speedier than Cabrera—most runners are—and that the slick-fielding, swift-of-foot Trout covers more terrain and hence, is more valuable. We also get weird sabermetrics such as numerous variants of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), as stupid a category as ever devised. WAR is a classic Straw Man debate in which A (a real player) is compared to B (a hypothetical player). What hogwash! By such reckoning, abject poverty compares favorably to death.

So let’s strip the Gang of Six from the bullshit. First of all, Trout won the Rookie of the Year Award, as he should have. But is he anything special in the outfield? He’s flashy, but he did not win a Gold Glove, and his .988 fielding percentage was just the 9th best among MLB centerfielders, and pretty close to the league average. Cabrera plays third base, a harder position. He’ll never win a Gold Glove, but his .966 fielding percentage was the 6th best among third basemen. He made thirteen errors to Trout’s four, but ask Trout’s team, the Angels, is they would have gladly exchanged Cabrera’s glove for the three guys they trotted out at third who collectively committed twenty-four errors.

When it comes to offensive categories there are just three in which Trout surpassed Cabrera: stolen bases (duh!), walks (by +1), and runs scored. But, if the name of the game is total runs—and baseball is supposed to be a team game—Cabrera more than compensates for the fact that Trout scored 129 times and he just 109. If we add RBIs to runs, Miguel Cabrera was responsible for 248 total runs, Trout just 212. And if we start looking at power numbers, it’s not even close. Cabrera has a higher on-base percentage (.393 to .363), a higher slugging percentage (.606 to .564) and a higher on-base + slugging (.999 to .963).

Let’s get down to the real nitty gritty. An MVP doesn’t impress the sabermetrics crowd; he makes his team better. In August, it looked as if the Tigers would not make postseason play, but the Angels were threatening both first place and a Wild Card berth. The Tigers went to the World Series and the Angels failed to make the playoffs. In August, Cabrera hit .357, slapped 8 homeruns, and drove in 24 runs; Trout went .284/7/19. In September, when it really counted, Cabrera hit .308 with 10 homers and a stunning 27 RBIs. Trout hit an earthly .257 with 5 homeruns and knocked just one other player besides himself. The Angels could have finished third without Trout, but the Tigers could not have won the AL Central if Cabrera hadn’t put up superhuman numbers. How is there even room to debate who was more valuable? In fact, a dispassionate vote would have placed Adrian Beltre second in MVP voting and Derek Jeter third. But I guess those guys are also too black for the Great White Hopers.

Let me reiterate: I don’t blame Mike Trout for any of this; I hope does become the next Babe Ruth. But Lord deliver us from writers who twist numbers for inexcusable reasons. Miguel Cabrera is AL MVP—as it should be. There are only two explanations for those who think Trout was more valuable than Cabrera—they don’t understand the difference between theoretical math and real performance, or they are racist. Alas, my nose detects a whiff of the latter.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Another example of arcane language concerning baseball. This is a masterpiece and I don't know why. However I've always loved cricket and this is not about that. Good struff Lars. It's almost The Great American Novel!

Anonymous said...

Do you know of any passion that does NOT have specialized arcane language? Neither do I!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 2, I was being facetious, it was not a put down. Lars has become Don DeLillo. High praise indeed - or is DeLillo passe now?