In a few weeks, Miguel Cabrera is probably going to be named the American League's Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, in their (almost) infinite wisdom. But is Cabrera the player who best symbolizes the Detroit Tigers' 88-win, American League pennant-winning season?
No, I can't really argue that Miguel Cabrera was the American League's MVP. Apparently "some" have argued that Cabrera wasn't even the Most Valuable Tiger; Kurt Mensching isn't buying that (see sidebar) ... but you certainly could make a case for Justin Verlander, who did win the MVP Award a year ago and was nearly as brilliant in 2012 (granted, without the gaudy record).
But I'm not here to name the Tigers' most valuable player. Maybe that was Cabrera, or Verlander, or maybe even Austin Jackson. I'm here to choose the first Tiger who will come to mind next week, and next year, and forever after when we think about the 2012 Detroit Tigers. And, like Kurt, I'm convinced it will forever be Miguel Cabrera.
First, there was Cabrera's willingness to switch from first base to third base, accommodating Prince Fielder. Yes, maybe Fielder or Cabrera should have been slotted as the Tigers' Designated Hitter instead, obviating the move. But that wasn't Cabrera's or Fielder's decision; that was an organizational decision, and it was Cabrera who made it work. He wasn't a good third baseman ... but he was good enough.
And then there were the Tigers' two seasons. On the 3rd of July, the Tigers played their 81st game -- exactly halfway through the season -- and they lost, which dropped their record to 39-42. They were two games behind the Indians, and four-and-a-half games behind the first-place White Sox. Nobody was complaining about Miguel Cabrera, who was having a perfectly good year: .317/.378/.538, with 16 home runs.
And then, the 4th of July. Cabrera homered twice and doubled, and the Tigers beat the Twins 5-1. And while Cabrera just kept hitting home runs, the Tigers just kept winning. In the second half of the season, he batted .343/.409/.680 with 28 homers, on the way to the majors' first Triple Crown since 1967. Also in the second half of the season, the Tigers went 49-32 to ultimately take control of the American League Central. There were, no doubt, various reasons for Detroit's second-half surge. But Miguel Cabrera's power has to sit atop the list, right?
In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.