On September 30, LaVelle E. Neal III, the Twins beat writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, wrote an impassioned summation of why Angels super-rookie Mike Trout should be considered the clear favorite for American League MVP. It's short, but it's actually a good, quick defense against the old-school, RBI-enamored argument that Miguel Cabrera's most ardent supporters were pushing.
Just so we're clear, here's the headline from his column, a few days before ballots were due:
La Velle E. Neal III's Sunday Insider: Angels' Trout is the right pick for AL MVP
Pretty definitive, sure. Here was the subhead:
He passes the eye test and numbers test. Miguel Cabrera, Triple Crown or not, isn't as important to his team.
Right! Now we're cooking with gas. Neal's pro-Trout stance, succinct and persuasive, is as follows:
According to baseball-reference.com. Trout leads baseball with a WAR of 10.6. Cabrera is fourth in the AL at 6.6.
But you don't need the finest in statistical engineering to see that Trout has had the most impact of any player on any team this year.
In 132 games, Trout is batting .323 with 28 homers, 78 RBI and 47 stolen bases. He is the five-tool player every team tries to draft.
He covers massive ground in the outfield, making him an ERA reducer. Cabrera is not a strong defensive player. Trout can reach base and steal bases with his speed. Cabrera, ahem, is not sculpted that way.
And, if you apply the Morneau Doctrine of 2006 — he won the MVP that year because the Twins took off in June once he started hitting — the Angels have played .591 ball since Trout joined them in late April.
If Cabrera somehow pulls off the Triple Crown feat, it will be an amazing accomplishment. But he's not the Most Valuable Player.
You go to the ballpark to watch Miguel Cabrera hit.
You go to the ballpark to watch Mike Trout play.
And if a player like Trout can throw multiple dimensions at you like he has, then he deserves the nod over Cabrera in the comparison of outstanding seasons. WAR confirms what the Extra Innings package shows us.
That is some compelling copy, not the most technical but, regardless, a stand for new-age baseball wisdom, the kind that pushed Felix Hernandez for the 2010 AL Cy Young. It's no wonder then that he was elected the new vice president of the BBWAA just a couple of weeks ago. This is obviously a writer with convictions who sticks to them no matter the prevailing winds, no matter how unpopular it might be with his more close-minded colleagues, and—
Wait, what's that you say? They're releasing the full ballot for each voter this year? Oh, no.
Whoops! (We've reached out to Neal to see if he has any explanation for what caused his abrupt change of heart—there must be something, right?—but we've yet to hear back.)
The really exciting news in all of this is that being elected VP this year, Neal has the inside track to the BBWAA presidency next fall. Really, what a fine example for all baseball writers to aspire toward, especially with attitudes like this pervading the organization's rank and file.
Update (11:10 pm): Neal was kind enough to respond and explain further what caused his sudden turnaround in thinking:
After I wrote the column, Cabrera kept hitting and, when it was time to fill out the ballot, I changed my mind. Cabrera helped his team reach the postseason. While Trout probably helped the Angels be relevant late into the season, I decided to go with Miggy.
I struggled with the decision. It was a Tarzan versus Flash Gordon debate.