There has not been an American League team that claimed the MVP Award in three consecutive seasons since those vaunted New York Yankees teams of the early 1960s.
Outfielder Roger Maris won it in 1960 and 1961, outfielder Mickey Mantle won in 1962, and catcher Elston Howard picked up the hardware in 1963.
The Tigers have a shot at winning the MVP award for a third consecutive time, coming off pitcher Justin Verlander (2011) and third baseman Miguel Cabrera (2012) winning their awards.
Eight teams in major league history have won three consecutive MVP awards, and seven of them won at least one World Series in that stretch — Barry Bond’s San Francisco Giants being the team that didn’t. So, who might give the Tigers another MVP award, and possibly their first World Series win since 1984?
The question was put to several Detroit players, who added first baseman Prince Fielder and designated hitter Victor Martinez to Cabrera and Verlander in the conversation.
“It’s fun to talk about who it could be,” catcher Alex Avila said. “Justin won it; Miggy won it. But with our team, my money might be on Prince. And it’s not putting any added pressure on Prince because I know he expects a lot of himself … I’m just saying he’s that caliber of player, he’s that good.”
Fielder was ninth in AL MVP voting in his first year with the Tigers in 2012. With the Milwaukee Brewers, he finished third (2007), fourth (’09) and third (’11) in the National League.
Last season, Fielder batted cleanup and was great protection for Cabrera, who won the first Triple Crown since 1967. Having a proven hitter like Martinez batting behind Fielder this year is the reason many believe the first baseman is a legitimate MVP candidate.
“You definitely have to look at the guys on our team who have already won the MVP,” center fielder Austin Jackson said. “But Prince is definitely capable of it, too. It’s too difficult to just pick one of them.”
When asked about the confidence some teammates were showing in his MVP chances, Fielder smiled and flipped a ball hard into his glove.
“Yeah,” Fielder said, “that’s nice. I definitely want to help our team, and whatever happens after that is a bonus.”
Through Tuesday’s games, Fielder ranks first in the AL in RBI (19), and second in the AL in on-base percentage (.483), slugging percentage (.745) and walks (10). He’s sixth in the AL with a .383 batting average and fifth in the AL with four homers.
Still, Cabrera seems to be the favorite. The third baseman is batting .345 with two homers and 17 RBI.
“If I had to pick one guy,” said right fielder Torii Hunter, “it would be the guy who won it last year. But it could be Prince, and don’t forget about Victor Martinez. You are lucky to have three MVP candidates on one team.”
But what about Verlander, who is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA?
“Verlander’s great,” Hunter said, “But I’m an old-school guy, and I’m biased to a position player being the MVP.”
Hunter believes that pitchers have the Cy Young Award to compensate them.
“Miggy has to be right there for the MVP award again,” Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago said. “He did not get satisfied by the statistics and awards he won last year.
“But I see Prince being there, and Verlander has a good chance. Victor is coming back strong … so don’t forget him.
“It’s tough to pick just one. But if I had to, you can’t go wrong with Miggy.”
Martinez is off to a slow start, batting .200 with four RBI, but had a three-hit game Tuesday that could signal his return to productivity.
Don’t rule out Hunter (AL-leading .414), who was added as a free agent with hopes of being the missing link to a Series crown. His five-tool and leadership abilities could put him into consideration if the Tigers have a great season and he does, too.
Plus, leadoff hitter Jackson (.393, AL-leading 19 runs) actually gives Detroit a sixth player who could get MVP votes.
This is a truly loaded lineup.
Cabrera hit a two-run homer and had four RBI in Tuesday’s 6-3 win at Seattle to illustrate why the Tigers are capable of having an MVP-like performance on a daily basis.
So, Detroit could have the AL’s most epic lineup in 50 years — since those 1961 and ’62 World Series champion Yankees of Maris, Mantle and Howard.
The 2000-’04 San Francisco Giants, on which Bonds won three consecutive NL MVPs after Jeff Kent won in 2000, are the only team to have three consecutive MVPs and not win the Series.
Others to have accomplished the feat are the 1938-’40 Cincinnati Reds, 1941-’43 Yankees, 1942-’44 St. Louis Cardinals, 1954-’57 Yankees and 1975-’77 Reds.
The 1928-’33 Philadelphia A’s also qualify as an MVP-streak team that won it, but on a technicality. There was no AL MVP awarded in 1929 and ’30 for financial reasons during the beginning of the Great Depression, and they won the 1930 World Series.
It’s pretty select company, and Detroit has a chance to become the ninth team to join the elite group at the end of this season.