Well, that was interesting.
After months of debate, name-calling, hissy fits and whatever else went lobbed between the statistical elite and eyeball testers, we have an AL MVP. His name is Miguel Cabrera. We have a runner-up. His name is Mike Trout. The vote wasn't close.
(And still the best part of Thursday was baseball owners mingling with Furries in a Chicago hotel lobby, where, separated from the herd, poor John Henry was mauled by a pack of man-sized guinea pigs.)
Fortunately, the aftermath saw us return to civil discourse.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light, Cabrera voters," tweeted one baseball writer.
"In basements across America, Mike Trout groupies are crying in their mother's meat loaf," tweeted a national columnist.
I mean, other than that.
Yes, this one got personal. Lines were drawn in lime, some with the aid of protractors. Nate Silver went Trout. Jim Leyland said of Cabrera, "I just felt like if this guy doesn't get the MVP then there should be no such thing as an MVP." Several voters threatened to move to Canada. The ones who didn't already live there. (They both voted for Cabrera, by the way.)
The great stare down of 2012 – Triple Crown vs. Triple Threat – produced a humble, gracious and reach-across-the-aisle winner in Cabrera. He received 22 first-place votes, Trout the other six. Had I a vote, I would have gone Trout. Without boring you with a worn-thin examination, I concluded Cabrera was the greater hitter, Trout the greater player, and still my mind would change between bites of meat loaf.
Asked Thursday evening about this whole man vs. computer deal, Cabrera, who signed off on every answer with a sweet, "Thank you, sir," suggested détente.
"They can use both," he said. "I think in 2012 we've got to take advantage of that. … In the end, the game is the same."
They throw it, he hits it. They hit it, he catches it. Mostly. He prepares, he wins the game – or loses it – and then he prepares again tomorrow.
"The new computer stuff," as he called it, does not change the game as he knows it, beyond, perhaps, the preparation phase of his day. And then, still, there's putting the bat barrel on the baseball, which he did better than anyone in the game in 2012. That is Cabrera's gift, and if that made him the MVP for a year, then he was glad to have it – for Detroit, for his native Venezuela, and presumably for the three darling children who clung to him during the MLB Network feed.
Indeed, he said, "I thought Trout was going to win."
[Jeff Passan: Stats revolution should've carried Mike Trout to AL MVP]
Most expected the vote to be close, reflecting the players and the time we're in. Perhaps the Trout contingent was louder. ESPN polled 28 of its writers and Trout won, 21-7, nearly the reverse of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote. Keith Olbermann went on television and took up the Trout cause. Lots of ex-ballplayers jumped up and down and screamed, "Triple Crown! Triple Crown! Triple Crown!"
Some of the arguments were less nuanced.
Where that left us, basically, is pretty near to where we were before. The big, pretty numbers in the newspaper every morning won out. The guy at the top of those categories at the end won out. And Miguel Cabrera will look swell holding up that plaque in New York next month.
The conversations leading to the vote, then in the aftermath of the vote, will have benefits. Once, not so long ago, those sorts of discussions led to Felix Hernandez winning a Cy Young Award. We all got a little smarter. Or at least more flexible. Maybe.
Even Cabrera didn't seem to mind having his game and historic season kicked around for a few months, and that's occasionally where it went. If he was smart, he paid little attention.
"It's exciting to see players like Trout do his kinds of things on the field," Cabrera said. "That's very good stuff."
Besides, he said, the narrative reminded the public, "How good baseball is. How beautiful it is."
Amid that, we picked sides, we labeled each other, we were enlightened or traditional or seam-headed or Neanderthal. ("Seamhead," incidentally, used to be a complimentary description of a writer who couldn't wait to get to the ballpark and cover ball. Now it's a pinhead with a calculator and his back to the game.)
The fact is, we'll probably never get it exactly right, but some of us can pretend to. The rest, well, they're invited to rage, rage against the dying of the light.
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