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AL MVP race about old vs. new more than Cabrera vs. Trout

Center fielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles

Center fielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium. (Sept. 11, 2012) Credit: Getty

Congratulations are due to Miguel Cabrera.

He is a great player, who at the end of a great year, earned recognition as the Most Valuable Player in the American League. He won the first Triple Crown in decades, an achievement as rare as it is difficult, and helped his team reach the postseason. Cabrera is worthy of the MVP.

He just wasn't the best choice.

That distinction belonged to the Angels' Mike Trout, the best all-around player in baseball.

Cabrera may have been a better hitter than Trout, but his advantage was only slight.

Meanwhile, Trout was clearly superior on the bases and in the field. He helped the Angels win games in three different areas -- a more fitting triple crown -- while Cabrera's output was limited to what he produced at the plate.

"Defense matters also in this game," said one baseball executive, who admitted he would have voted for Trout.

No slide rules needed here. Not a single number cited. Even when you're just eyeballing it, Trout built a strong all-around case for the MVP, which might have been good enough had this latest vote been about the players. But it wasn't about Trout, nor was it about Cabrera, which is a real shame.

Instead, both became proxies for baseball's ongoing ideological war, a tiresome battle for hearts and minds waged by traditionalists and reformists.

Or, if you prefer your expressions loaded with bias, the old school vs. the geeks.

Either way, this ongoing tiff hijacked what should have been a celebration of two wonderful players, and turned it into another sneering contest. It was the stuff of Fox News and MSNBC -- pundits and analysts; writers and observers -- always talking but never listening.

Ultimately, nobody won.

The vote is over and the battle rages on. But keep this in mind. The old school may resent the stats. They may view them as nothing more than numbers and cold calculations. In fact, some of them Friday morning point to Cabrera's win as a victory for those who rely only on their eyes and their guts to see the game.

But it won't change reality.

While the ideological debate has raged on in public, within the front offices of major league baseball, the war is long over. Every team in baseball has devoted resources to sabermetric research. Some have invested more than others, but all of them have invested. Every team.

You may choose to reject them. Or you may choose to learn them. Either way, the stats are here to stay.

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