COMMENTARY | I don't know if I'm the only one that's noticed, but it seems like this country has got a bunch of problems. There's economic turmoil, rampant drug abuse, a failing education system, and the Kardashians.
It seems almost silly for adults to spend time debating who are the true and rightful winners of arbitrary baseball awards voted on by humans with personal biases and preferences that influence their choices.
The voters have their opinions and so does every single baseball fan. I am no exception -- I wrote about my choices for the four major awards here. But they're just my opinions, based on my personal biases and preferences. With all of the choices possible, I'm quite sure most people will disagree.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Mike Trout's late-season surge in production to leave Miguel Cabrera behind in the debate over not only who should be the league's MVP, but also who the best player in baseball is.
In the comments and over on Twitter, there was quite a bit of disagreement and many felt that Cabrera was better. Most of those people were Detroit Tigers fans -- and I get that. You have to support your guys.
Some commenters said I preferred Trout because I'm a homer for the Los Angeles Angels and while I do live in Los Angeles, I'm not actually an Angels fan. Others accused me of having a personal bias for Trout -- as if they didn't have a personal bias for Cabrera.
With just a couple games left in the season, Mike Trout leads all of baseball with a 10.2 WAR and Miguel Cabrera comes in with an excellent 7.6 WAR. In most years, a 7.6 WAR would be all you need to win the MVP Award, but not with Mike Trout around.
Last year, Trout out-produced Cabrera 10.0 to 6.9 WAR and Cabrera still took home the award. As I've said before, I don't think the award should ever be based strictly on WAR -- or any one stat -- should determine the award. However, since WAR factors in all aspects of the game (hitting, fielding and baserunning), it's a better guide to who actually produced the most.
We all grew up thinking that home runs, RBIs and batting average were the really important non-pitcher stats. But these newer, more advanced metrics allow us to look at all aspects of a player's performance.
It's the "all aspects" part where the argument for Cabrera starts to fall apart. He is clearly the absolute best hitter in the game right now. But the game also consists of baserunning -- at which Cabrera is below average -- and defense. Ah, defense. Many advanced defensive stats like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) have him as one of the worst fielders in the league.
And the argument that his fielding percentage isn't that bad is kind of silly because it doesn't factor in just how many balls that get by him that even an average defender would get. That means he's giving base hits to the other team. And that doesn't sound very valuable.
Mike Trout's defense this year has been average or slightly better according to the advanced stats. But his baserunning has been among the best.
A Cabrera proponent can say that Miggy has more home runs and RBIs while Trout's supporters can point to his doubles, triples and stolen bases. Back and forth until they're blue in the face. Really what we're talking about here isn't a personal bias, but a deep love that sports fans are powerless to avoid:
The Man Crush.
It's that very special feeling that one man has for an athlete who performs at the highest level of skill and looks so good doing it. You never know when it will strike and it happens when you least expect.
You're minding your own business and then, out of the clear blue sky, you see a player with the perfect combination of speed and strength and physical competence who just makes you think "yes." It's nothing against other players who might be faster or stronger of even better looking -- they're just not your type.
Women love athletes for their reasons -- cute butts, I'm told, are important. There are also strong jaw lines and rock-hard physiques that factor in. With men, it's more the slam dunks, touchdown passes and home runs that get our blood boiling.
The man crush is really quite a remarkable thing. It can cross lines that have long kept people apart, like race, religion and even the most taboo-est of all: favorite teams.
Yes, it's shocking, but a man crush doesn't care about skin color, who or what you worship, or the jersey on your back. My grandfather was a lifelong Red Sox fan, but one of his favorite players of all time was the New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle. I was shocked to hear this. But I understood.
Like any other truly deep love, a man crush blinds you. It makes you look past the red flags, problems and flaws that your player has. He's in a batting slump? "It happens to everyone." Steroids? "Everyone was doing them." Drunk driving? "Nobody got hurt. And besides, he's one of the single greatest athletic specimens this planet has ever seen and he was just letting off some steam!"
A man crush also helps make excuses like, "Sure, Miggy's been hurt the last month and his productivity is way down, but the fact that he has played injured shows he's a true leader."
Say what you want about the WAR stat, but at least it isn't basing itself on something as thoroughly subjective as relative levels of "true leadership."
So, if you're sitting there reading this and thinking that the only reason I picked Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera is because I have a man crush on him, well, then you're absolutely right. Because he's the best player in baseball.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Miguel Cabrera
- Mike Trout