The debate raged but in the end, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera received all but six first-place votes to win American League MVP honors over Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.com was one of the six voters who gave Trout the nod over Cabrera. That wasn't a surprise, given what Passan wrote earlier in the day: "Trout, the unanimous AL rookie of the year, was the best player in the league this season, eons better than Cabrera, which is amazing because Cabrera capped off his superlative season with a superlative accomplishment: the Triple Crown. Trout's own triple crown, despite the lowercase letters, is far more impressive: He was among the five best hitters, fielders and baserunners in a game with about 400 position players on rosters at any given time."
The other five writers who voted for Trout were Tim Britton of the Providence Journal Bulletin, Jim Caple of ESPN.com, L.A.-based sports writer Joe Haakenson, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com and Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune.
Britton explained why he voted for Trout in an online column: "Why? I suppose I have to go beyond banal tautologies such as, 'He was the best player.' Let's start with the much-ballyhooed stat of wins above replacement (WAR), which is one of the easier ways to make the case for Trout. WAR attempts to measure all-around performance, and it claimed Trout was worth roughly 10 wins to his team this season -- not only the best in the majors this year, but the best by any player since Barry Bonds was reaching base more than 60% of the time back in 2004. Cabrera, meanwhile, was worth about seven wins above replacement in 2012.
"For many, WAR is a perplexing statistic. Its novelty and complexity -- there are different ways to calculate it to reach different final numbers -- detract from its validity. What exactly is a win above replacement anyway?
"So voting for Trout isn't about citing WAR, brushing off my shoulders and labeling those who don't agree as ignorant. This MVP debate is, however, about fostering an awareness that baseball is a multifaceted game in which a position player can make contributions even when he isn't standing in the batter's box. If we look at the performances of Cabrera and Trout in that light, the choice, at least to me, becomes fairly obvious."
Haakenson explained his decision to vote for Trout in a commentary that appeared on the Long Beach Press-Telegram's website: "The short answer is that Trout was a player who positively affected his team's games in more ways and more significantly than any other player in baseball -- in the batter's box, on the basepaths and in the field.
"Even many who support Cabrera agree that Trout was the most 'outstanding' player, or the 'best' player, or the most 'all-around' player. They counter by saying that the award, however, goes to the most 'valuable' player."
Passan, one of those leading the charge that sabermetrics showed Trout was more valuable than Cabrera, guessed that Cabrera would get at least 20 of the 28 first-place votes. He got 22 first-place votes.
"A fight 15 years in the making will continue until not just the electorate but the public beyond accepts that when it comes to appreciating baseball, math is not some scary android trying to take away our game," Passan wrote. "It's here, more than anything, to help us understand it and love it even more."
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