In the great Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout most-valuable-player debate of 2012, the Trout loyalists most often cited Trout's dominance in WAR — the "wins above replacement" statistic that purports to distill production into one number. Lo and behold, the top two players in various WAR rankings this season are Cabrera and Trout, although neither player is an overwhelming leader.
Cabrera won the MVP and triple crown last season, yet he is on pace to better his numbers in each of the triple crown categories this season. He hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in last year. He is on pace to hit .358 with 50 home runs and 153 RBIs this year, based on his statistics through Friday.
As if this season is not painful enough for the Angels, Cabrera could amplify the angst.
Cabrera would extend the Detroit Tigers' streak of MVP awards to three. The last non-Tiger to win the AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, for the Texas Rangers, in 2010. The last player to repeat as MVP: Albert Pujols, for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 2008-09.
WAR for Dodgers' MVP?
The Dodgers' last-to-first season makes for a curious case study in the usefulness of WAR. The WAR number claims to represent how many victories the player in question adds to a team, as opposed to the bench player or minor leaguer that might be used in his place.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly deflected the specific question of whom he would consider the team MVP. But he has said he considers the MVP an award for everyday players, so he might well favor Gonzalez. Mattingly noted that Gonzalez had helped keep the Dodgers close enough so that the contributions of Ramirez and Puig — who totaled 11 at-bats in April and May — could help push the team into first place.
"To me, it has to be about the whole season," Mattingly said. "I'm not trying to put one guy above the other. Adrian has been the guy that has been there for us the whole year."
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Phillies told Manager Charlie Manuel he would be fired. Manuel managed one last game — the 19th loss in 23 games — then graciously showed up for the news conference to announce his firing.
"I'm not here to blame Charlie Manuel for our issues," said General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr..
This is the reckoning for falling in love with the 2008 World Series champions, and for obliterating a farm system to try to keep winning. First baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley each is signed through age 36, pitcher Cole Hamels and shortstop Jimmy Rollins through 35, pitcher Cliff Lee through 37.
"I think those core players are very talented," Amaro said.
They are, but growing old together is no way to replenish a contender. Amaro, who inherited the general manager job after Pat Gillick assembled the championship team, is the man under fire now.