Miguel Cabrera and Daniel Bard: AL's MVP and LVP
Miguel Cabrera is the MVP of the American League. Period. Make no mistake about it, the writers got this one right. No questions asked.
No need to scream about W.A.R. and the new age metrics. I'm already a firm believer that today's modern statistical interpretations are more accurate than those of our fathers' and grandfathers' era.
Now if you want the biggest reason I believe Cabrera is the MVP, all you have to do is look at the American League's LVP (Least Valuable Player), Daniel Bard, of the Boston Red Sox.
Bard began the 2011/12 offseason as a 26-year-old 6'4" flame throwing set-up man coming off a trio of solid seasons. Consistently good, and more than occasionally brilliant, Bard had flourished in his role as set-up man to former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
So dominating was his performance as "closer in waiting" that many Sox fans assumed that it contributed to the club's reluctance to aggressively pursue Papelbon once he hit the free agent open market. But there was one little snag in the passing of the torch from one closer to the next.
Bard wanted no part of it.
Somewhere along the line, Bard had decided he was a starting pitcher. How and why he had come to that conclusion is a matter of some speculation. Much of that speculation revolved around the economics of baseball. Whether that's fair or not, frankly I have no idea, but I do know this, Bard is a heck of a reliever. The book on Bard the starter, well let's just say that book is still looking for a publisher.
Bard's body of work as a starter was a pedestrian 4-6 5.30 ERA when he was sent packing for a return to Pawtucket, R.I., home of the AAA Pawsox and a place that Bard hadn't pitched in since 2009. Perhaps even scarier than Bard's performance as a starter was the fact that it now seemed Bard struggled to get out anyone, anywhere.
At the highest level of competition even the most dominant performers only seem to hold a narrow advantage over their fellow elite. Those advantages may be cause for celebration but if history has taught us anything, those advantages can also be quite frail and require a delicate balance of work, health, opportunity and luck to maintain.
Bard lost his advantage and became just another guy.
Perhaps just as bad, Bard, a three year veteran, had decided that he would dictate policy to his employers, the Boston Red Sox. I don't want to be put in the position of defending Bobby Valentine, who no doubt would have still found other ways to set his hair on fire and generally bring more chaos to everything Red Sox Nation, but from all indications, Valentine wanted Bard in the bullpen.
Perhaps his decades of baseball experience had taught Valentine that flame-throwing relievers cut in the mold of Papelbon and Bard don't grow on trees and the opportunity to seamlessly transfer power from one to the other was an even more rare event. How the 26-year-old was allowed to have such power begs for more questions for the Red Sox front office, but that's for another day.
The bottom line is the Red Sox needed Bard, the 2009-2011 edition, but Bard was too busy trying to re-invent himself against the best interests of the club. That was the least valuable thing Daniel Bard could do for his club and that's why he is my LVP.
So that brings us to Miguel Cabrera.
During the 2011/12 offseason Cabrera was the big man on campus in Detroit, at least amongst those folks who make a living trying to hit baseballs as opposed to throwing them. When the Detroit Tigers pursued free agent Prince Fielder, it would not have been altogether unexpected for a professional athlete to question if the move could have any adverse effect on his own personal status.
Cabrera not only put ego aside but literally moved aside as well. Moving over to third base, a position he had not played on a regular basis since 2007, thus giving the Tigers the ability to field their best possible offensive line-up.
Cabrera is not a great fielding third baseman, you don't need today's modern metrics to tell you that. But that move was not made in a vacuum. If you are going to fixate on every play Cabrera didn't make, while playing out of position, don't you have to give some credit to the fact that the move to the left side of the infield is what allowed Fielder to come to Detroit in the first place?
The bottom line is the Detroit Tigers needed Cabrera to "take one for the team" and move over to third base. He did so and performed at a historic level while doing it. That is the most valuable thing Cabrera could do for his club and that's why he is my MVP.
Argue all you want about statistics, old and new, but this was one of the few times in recent memory where the best/most valuable argument seemed relegated to obscurity. Cabrera was as good as anyone, and in my opinion more valuable than everyone.
Miguel Cabrera MVP.
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