By Ross Newhan
In the last eight or so days of the baseball season, highlighted by a series of division and wild card battles--not to mention release of the great new Mumford & Sons' album ("Babel")--history is at stake in the American League, where Miguel Cabrera of Detroit and Mike Trout of the Angels are vying for the Most Valuable Player Award.
This, of course, is not your customary MVP contest--nor will it be a knock on the loser or any of the other contenders, such as Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Derek Jeter, etc.
While there are bigger rewards on the line--a Central Division title for the Tigers and the AL's second wild card berth for the Angels---it is difficult to escape the historical backdrop of the MVP contest.
Consider that Trout--a lock for the AL's Rookie of the Year Award at 21 and putting together a collection of statistics never achieved by a rookie--could join Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to win the rookie and MVP awards in the same season.
Meanwhile, Cabrera could become the first winner of the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and only the 14th player--two did it twice--since 1878, an achievement that escaped Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, among many other Hall of Fame players and all of those players who are known to have cheated by employing steroids or human growth hormones.
Cabrera, entering Wednesday's games, led the league in batting average (.331) and runs batted in (133) and trailed Hamilton in home runs by one, 43-42.
Trout boasts impressive statistics in each of those three categories, is a far superior base runner and defensive player than Cabrera, and, seamheads would argue, has a considerable lead over Cabrera in the sabermetric category of Wins Above Replacement, which takes into consideration those defensive and base stealing categories, among others.
There is no debating that Trout, in his first season and one of the youngest players in the majors, is a more complete player than Cabrera. There is no debating that coming up to the season's final week both players have been the most instrumental in putting their teams in position to reach the playoffs, although both have received considerable help from teammates.
Who should win? Who should be the American League's Most Valuable player?
Having watched Trout close up, roaming the outfield as if a member of the Border Patrol and becoming a more clutch hitter as games reached the make or break span of the late innings, his speed alone a catalyst as well, it is difficult not to vote him the MVP as well as the rookie award.
Yet, it has been 45 years since any player has achieved the Triple Crown, and it is such an infrequent accomplishment in all the years of the game, that Cabrera would almost have to be voted the honor.
There are many, among the MVP committee voters, who can be expected to cite the WAR category and vote for Trout as the more accomplished all-around player, but sometimes those three categories ---batting average, RBI and home runs--speak for themselves, and the difficulty in achieving all three in the same year is documented by the history.