Playoff positions are being decided in the final series of the regular season, Miguel Cabrera is chasing history and making a strong case for AL MVP, Oakland is 30 games over .500 since June 30, and the Dodgers fell short of the playoffs. Does it get any better than this? Well, Blue Jays fans sure hope so. Let’s look at what’s happening.
Cabrera or Trout for AL MVP
This is truly a no-brainer. The Triple Crown isn’t really that important and Mike Trout has not only outplayed Cabby all season in every facet of the game (offense, defense, base running), but he’s outplaying him in the stretch run, too. Even in the final 3+ series of the season, Trout’s been more impressive than Cabby:
Trout’s done this against SEA, TEX, and the CWS; Cabby’s OBP and SLG have suffered against two bottom dwellers, KC and MIN, but his chances of winning a Triple Crown have improved.
There’s no doubt that Mike Trout is the player most deserving of AL MVP. That said, he’s unlikely to win it. The Tigers are going to the playoffs and the Triple Crown’s just too sexy. Just ask Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler.
The Oakland A’s
On June 30, the Texas Rangers beat the A’s 7-2. Since then the A’s are 30 games over .500 and their most recent win propelled them into a first place tie with Texas. In doing so, they erased a 13 game deficit. No one predicted this except, perhaps, Billy Beane and the most diehard of A’s fans.
Smaller budget teams dream of this kind of run (Baltimore’s somewhat flukey season should get a mention here, too). How have they done it? Good pitching, timely hitting, and good internal leadership. These are all things that the Jays lack. Alex Anthopoulos has promised to be aggressive in the offseason: we’ll see. There are a lot of holes to fill and questions to answer.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Miss the Playoffs
I don’t know where the cockle is on my heart (Near the aorta? The right ventricle?), but it’s warm. I’m a Jays’ fan first and foremost but I’ve cheered for the San Francisco Giants for decades, since they were a (very) bad team. When Magic Johnson and the new owners made several moves to improve the LAD this summer, I was impressed but I also feared for the SFG. It was all for naught. The Giants didn’t falter, despite losing Melky Cabrera, and the Dodgers have not impressed. As a Giants fan, I’m glad to see the Dodgers miss the playoffs.
There’s another reason why I’m glad they missed the playoffs, though. Over the decades, I thought I’d noticed a trend: it’s virtually impossible to buy a champion. Do teams need to spend to win? Yes. Can they throw money at whoever’s available, and expect to win? This is less likely. Magic Johnson thought teams needed to spend to win in this league, and made his thoughts public. Sorry Magic, it takes a lot more than that. Among other things, it takes time, discipline, trial-and-error, heartache, and lots of things have to fall into place. There’s more of a process to it than Magic, et al, were willing to grant but they attempted a shortcut anyways. Their stretch run confirms my long-held impressions.