A year later, and nothing has changed between Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and young Angels star Mike Trout — and that makes the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award even more exciting.
Other players will be thrown into the discussion. Josh Donaldson has fueled the Athletics’ playoff push. Chris Davis has had a terrific year for the Orioles, and some might push for Robinson Cano since the Yankees still cling to postseason hopes. But it’s Superman vs. Batman, the sequel, as Cabrera and Trout head into the final weeks of the season.
Cabrera not only is the defending MVP, he is trying to win the Triple Crown for an unprecedented second year in a row. In 2012, Cabrera batted .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI to become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. But Miggy had more in him this season. He entered Saturday batting .348 with 43 homers and 133 RBI — while playing a chunk of the season battling an abdominal injury. Despite the health issues, he is on pace to outdo everything he did last season.
“He’s not fast and he’s hobbling, and he’s still hitting,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
Voters couldn’t overlook the Triple Crown when voting for Cabrera last year. This year, he leads in batting average and RBI but trails Davis in home runs. Will he get MVP votes if he wins two categories and not three? He entered Saturday in a 4-for-26 skid. Could he be shut down to rest for the playoffs?
Trout hit .326 last season with 30 homers, 83 RBI and 49 stolen bases. But many gawked at his 10.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement, a statistic that takes in account other factors such as defense) and trumpeted him for MVP. We all know what happened.
There’s been no sophomore slump for Trout, only a second-year surge. Like Cabrera, he has taken his game to another level this season. He entered Saturday hitting .334 (second to Cabrera in the AL) with 23 home runs, 86 RBI, 32 steals and a 1.003 on base-plus-slugging percentage.
“A lot of things experience will teach you,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and Mike has been a quick study. His talent says he can do it. He is not playing over his head.”
By the way, here are the WAR leaders: 1. Trout, 8.4. 2. Donaldson, 7.0. 3. Cano, 6.8. 4. Cabrera 6.7.
My vote? I’m waiting until the final Insider Sept. 29 to announce it.
Voters will be challenged, once again, to examine their criteria for MVP. Does it go to Cabrera because of his bat alone or does it go to Trout because of his all-around ability? And should Donaldson and Cano be considered for helping their teams win? Let the debate begin … again.
The Royals find themselves in the thick of the wild-card chase, and they don’t know what to do with themselves. The players are used to planning offseason vacations by now. Instead, they are eyeing their first postseason berth since 1985. Season-ticket holders are receiving playoff ticket information. Manager Ned Yost woke up at 4:30 a.m. one day this week, figuring out ways to juggle the rotation in case he wants James Shields to start a playoff game.
Good times in Kansas City. For the first time in a long time.
“I’ve never been in this situation: Playing for something in September and really not planning for the offseason yet,” outfielder Alex Gordon said. “It’s awesome.”
• • •
Cleveland entered Saturday 1½ games out of a wild-card spot — the first team in line behind the Rangers and Rays — and Indians fans couldn’t care less.
Cleveland has the third-worst attendance in baseball, ahead of just Tampa Bay and Miami. The Indians’ three-game series with Kansas City last week drew a total of 34,494 — 11,498 per game.
• • •
Jhonny Peralta rejoined the Tigers for workouts Wednesday. The All-Star shortstop is serving a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal that runs out with three games left in the season.
He will not return to short, as the team is pleased with Jose Iglesias. Peralta will work out in the outfield and at third, short and second. “I’m angry with myself,” he said.
• • •
At least one thing is going right for the White Sox. They entered Saturday third in the majors with a .258 batting average with two out and runners in scoring position.
Three observations …
• Coco Crisp has 19 home runs? I remember when he used to bunt the entire first round of batting practice. Now he has one bunt hit and 19 home runs. Wow.
• The Braves need to take it down a notch. Jose Fernandez took a little extra time to admire his first major league home run, and Atlanta turns it into a bench-clearing incident. The Braves are crushing the National League East. Lighten up.
• Hopefully Derek Jeter comes back in 2014 and has an injury-free season and goes out on his own terms.
… and two predictions
• Miguel Cabrera will give up his pursuit of the Triple Crown and shut it down the final week of the regular season.
• The Twins will finish 69-93.