While most folks were watching something called the presidential debate last Wednesday night, this writer was far more interested in flipping back and forth between the final games of baseball’s regular season. It was a fitting end to an exciting yet strange year and after all is said and done, 2012 may go down as one of the only seasons in which there was no clear-cut favorite to win it all. But before we lose ourselves in the ongoing playoffs, let’s look back at the season that was and hand out some awards.
The hottest debate right now seems to be whether L.A. Angels’ Mike Trout or Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera will hoist the American League MVP trophy. In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer: “Miggy” became the first batter since 1967—and the first mammal since Affirmed took the prize at the Belmont Stakes in 1978—to win the elusive Triple Crown. It’s an amazing achievement for Cabrera and when you throw in the fact that he led his team to the playoffs, how can you not give him the award? Not to take anything away from Trout, who put up some ridiculous numbers himself—a .326 average, 30 homers, 83 RBI, 49 steals, 129 runs—but Cabrera did something that most of us have never seen. Had Trout’s Angels made the playoffs, we may be having a different discussion. Congrats, Miggy.
In the National League, the MVP race also appears to be down to two deserving candidates: Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and San Francisco’s Buster Posey. Putting my Giants bias aside, the MVP should be Posey’s. He led the majors in batting average, had 24 dingers and 103 RBI, launched a middling team post-steroid fraud Melky Cabrera to soar 26 games over .500, caught four 14-win pitchers at the hardest position in the game, and had he still been recovering from that horrific foot injury last season, the Giants would be a 70-win club at best. That is the definition of “most valuable player.” Braun certainly had a stellar year as well but for those reasons and more, Buster is undoubtedly the 2012 NL MVP.
As far as the Cy Young voting in the AL, this can be won by either Justin Verlander, David Price or Jered Weaver. Verlander appears to have the edge to win it considering he led the league in innings pitched, complete games and strikeouts, boasts a 2.64 ERA, won the award last year and is the only pitcher of the three to advance to the postseason. Despite missing roughly a month of the season, Weaver went 20-5 and led the league in WHIP while compiling an impressive 2.81 ERA. But my vote goes to David Price, the Rays lefty who finished with the same record as Weaver. The difference here is that Price had a miniscule 2.56 ERA while pitching against the best offensive teams in the majors and had 63 more strikeouts than Weaver. However, the last AL East pitcher to win the award was Roy Halladay in 2003. Verlander might be the favorite but when you break it all down, I think the Price is right.
If you shut your eyes and throw a dart at a picture of the top five NL Cy Young candidates to determine a victor, you couldn’t be wrong with your selection. Clayton Kershaw led the league in ERA (2.53) and WHIP (1.02) though he was only 14-9. R.A. Dickey was fantastic all year, going 20-6 with 230 K’s. Gio Gonzalez was 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA for the NL’s best team, the Washington Nationals. Johnny Cueto compiled a 19-9 record with a 2.78 ERA. And if that wasn’t enough, you could even make a case for Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most dominant closer in the game, winning the award. It’s a wide open race and the voting will be incredibly close, but my pick goes to the 37-year-old Dickey, who came out of nowhere and made watching the dreadful Mets somewhat bearable. Gonzalez or Cueto could certainly get the nod due to their teams making the playoffs but I don’t think there’s any question as to who the best pitcher in the NL was this season.
So long as the recently fired Bobby Valentine doesn’t win the American League Manager Of The Year award (Joe Girardi in 2006, anyone?), both Buck Showalter (Baltimore) and Bob Melvin (Oakland) should be crowned winners. They took teams that were atrocious in 2011 and not only turned them around, but pushed them to the playoffs. Just like in 1996 with Joe Torre (New York Yankees) and Johnny Oates (Texas Rangers), Showalter and Melvin deserve to share the award. In the NL, Davey Johnson should win this in a landslide, as the Nationals emerged and stunned the world by doing what they did this season. Great job to everyone in that organization.
And finally, the awards that don’t exist but probably should: Closer Of The Year – Fernando Rodney (AL) and Craig Kimbrel (NL), Most Underwhelming Team Of The Year – Boston Red Sox (AL) and Miami Marlins (NL), Comeback Team Of The Year – Baltimore Orioles (AL) and Washington Nationals (NL), Fantasy Baseball Hero – Mike Trout (AL) and Ryan Braun (NL), and Fantasy Baseball Assassin – Jacoby Ellsbury (AL) and Troy Tulowitzki (NL).
Thanks for reading and enjoy the postseason.
(Photo credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America)