DETROIT — Reggie Jackson said he doesn’t see a debate where the AL MVP award is concerned.
“MVP conversations are for people who don’t understand the game,” Jackson said Wednesday at Comerica Park. “Those conversations are for people who don’t know what a Triple Crown means. They don’t understand the greatness of what Miguel Cabrera has done this year.”
Jackson, the 1973 AL MVP for the Oakland A’s and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, said the sabermetricians who believe Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout should be this year’s MVP based on the Wins Above Replacement (W.A.R.) statistic are missing the obvious.
“W.A.R. evaluates the average player well but does not work in evaluating the great players,” Jackson said. “People under 40 tend to see the MVP as being Trout with the W.A.R. ratings. But people over 40 understand the Triple Crown that Miguel won this year, and know just how impressive that is.”
This season Cabrera became the first Triple Crown winner since Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
W.A.R. ratings incorporate various statistics in evaluating the number of wins a player adds to his team above what a replacement player would. According to baseball-reference.com, a rating of 8.0 or higher is MVP quality and 5.0 or higher indicates All-Star quality.
This year’s top five W.A.R. players were Trout (10.7), Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (8.2), Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (7.5), Cabrera (6.9) and Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (6.7).
“I truly admire Miguel Cabrera,” Jackson said. “I sent him a text message in Spanish after he won the Triple Crown, telling him I admire him and that he deserves to be the MVP. I just have such an admiration for the Triple Crown and this guy.”
Jackson pulled a phone out of his pocket and scrolled to the text message exchange with Cabrera that began: “Congratulations, my friend. It is amazing…”
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI, while Trout batted .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI. The rookie also led the league with 129 runs and 49 stolen bases, and likely will win a Gold Glove.
“I hit more than 44 homers and I batted .330 … for one month,” Jackson said with a smile.
Jackson’s career highs were 47 homers and 118 RBI in 1969 and a batting average of .300 in 1980. He finished a 21-year career with 563 homers, 1,702 RBI and a .262 average.
Known as Mr. October for hitting .357 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in five World Series (27 games), Jackson won the Series MVP twice, in 1973 and ’77. He also won the AL MVP once (1973) and finished in the top five five times.
Cabrera, just 29, finished in the top five of MVP voting five times, the equal of Jackson. Cabrera’s highest finish was second in 2010, when he placed behind Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton.
“Cabrera is a pure hitter, just the purest hitter,” said the 66-year-old Jackson. “You can see how it all begins by looking into his eyes before an at-bat. There is a determination and the thought of constant adjustments going through his mind that you can see.
“He is going to get the barrel of the bat on the ball. He lines up to hit a line drive to right-center, and he only very rarely tries to hit a homer. When he lines up to squarely hit the baseball, there are not many who can stop him.”
Jackson, now an executive with the Yankees, also is impressed with Cabrera’s play since moving from first base to third this season.
“I really enjoy watching him play defense,” Jackson said. “He gets around pretty good and he’s a giant. Watch him move for a guy who is at least 270 pounds!”
He noted the play in Game 3 on Tuesday, when Cabrera, listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, sprinted from the shifted shortstop position to catch a foul ball by Mark Teixeira near the stands.
“He has not been 240 since he was 16,” Jackson said. “And he really moves for a big man.”
Jackson added that willingness to change positions to accommodate free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder also speaks volumes about what kind of teammate Cabrera is.