From Jayson Stark at ESPN:
It's been bizarre to sit back and watch the American League MVP debate unfold. There has never been anything like it. Has there? Maybe it started out as a debate over the credentials of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. But now it's erupted into your basic civil war between new-age and old-age thinkers. On one side, you hear the self-appointed enlightened minds of a new millennium screaming, "The Triple Crown is meaningless." On the other side, you hear the Carl Yastrzemski Fan Club roaring, "WAR is just a bunch of sabermetric baloney."
But here's the deal: Both sides are wrong. If Miguel Cabrera pulls off this triple crown, it's NOT meaningless. It might not mean what it meant when, say, Joe Medwick won it. But there's a tradition, a dash of folklore and a certain romance in play here. And ohbytheway, if NONE of the great hitters who have passed through the old batter's box in the past 45 years have found a way to win this thing, it must be pretty frigging hard to do, right?
So we're allowed to celebrate this Triple Crown if Miguel Cabrera wins it. And anybody who refuses to celebrate it, based on some sort of condescending principle, has lost touch with a part of baseball that separates it from every other sport on earth. BUT, now that I've got that preamble out of the way, I have to admit: I missed the memo that says, "If you hit this trifecta, you should automatically win yourself a shiny, new MVP trophy." That, to me, seems just as absurd.
The reason Mike Trout should win this award is that he's been the best -- and most valuable -- baseball player on this continent. That's not a new-age concept. It's as old-fashioned as it gets. And those of us who believe that don't believe it because we worship WAR, or because we see that Trout has accumulated more wins above replacement than Cabrera or anyone else.
We just understand that Trout's insane 10.5 WAR are one more clear indication that he's a better baseball player than even one of the greatest hitters of our lifetimes. I've often said that if I had to pick one hitter to send to home plate with a big game riding on it, I'd pick Cabrera. But that doesn't mean he's been a better baseball player than Mike Trout. And remember, that Triple Crown isn't the only historic achievement that belongs in this argument. Trout is the first player EVER to hit 30 homers, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs in one season.
If you want to toss in his slash line, his 62 extra-base hits, his 92.3 percent stolen-base success rate or any other item on his stat sheet, you'll find that no player in the history of baseball has combined this much excellence in so many areas in the same season. Again, that phrase was "no player in the history of baseball."
Now, his 10.5 WAR aren't unprecedented. But only 13 position players in history have reached that plateau -- and they're all Hall of Famers. The last center fielder to reach it? Willie Mays, in 1964. And then there's this: When Mike Trout walked through the Angels' clubhouse door for the first time on April 28, they were 6-14 and tied for the second-worst record in baseball. Since that day, they own the BEST record in the American League (82-57). That's not a coincidence. That's what happens when an MVP is allowed to do his thing