Cabrera wins AL MVP in landslide

The time for debate is officially over. Miguel Cabrera is the American League MVP and it wasn’t close.

Cabrera, 29, received 22 of the 28 first-place votes and 362 total points. The other six first-place votes went to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, who had 281 points. Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre finished third with 210 points.

On a conference call with reporters, Cabrera talked about winning the MVP.

“It means a lot,” Cabrera said. “I thought it was going to be very close because Trout do a very good job this season, unbelievable. Thank God they vote for me to give me this award.”

Cabrera succeeds teammate Justin Verlander, who won the AL MVP Award last season. Cabrera also becomes the first Tigers position player to win the MVP Award since Hank Greenberg in 1940.

Verlander was one of Cabrera’s biggest supporters in the MVP race, going so far as to wear a T-shirt saying, “Keep the MVP in the D” with Cabrera’s name on it.

“I’m excited because he support me a lot and this year we support each other,” Cabrera said. “Hopefully we can help our team to win the division and get to the playoffs again.”

Through his Twitter account, @JustinVerlander, Verlander said, “Best player in baseball … THE MVP @MiguelCabrera. #calleditinapril.”

Verlander and Prince Fielder were eighth and ninth, respectively, in MVP voting.

Fielder also offered a congratulations from his Twitter account, @RealPFielder28: “Congratulations to Miguel on a historic season. Well deserved. Ready to get back after it with ya and bring WS championship to Detroit next season. Boom!”

It is the third time in Tigers history that that have had players win the MVP Award in back-to-back seasons. Pitcher Hal Newhouser won in 1944 and ’45, and Hank Greenberg won the first of his two MVP awards in 1935, the year after catcher Mickey Cochrane took home the hardware.

Cabrera was the first player in 45 years to achieve the Triple Crown, leading the AL in batting average at .330, home runs with 44 and RBI with 139. The Boston Red Sox’s Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967.

Hall of Famer Al Kaline had some of the highest praise for Cabrera this summer.

“He’s the best hitter that’s ever played in Detroit since I’ve been here, there’s no question about that,” Kaline said. “We might have had somebody with more home run power but overall, he’s by far the best hitter that I’ve ever seen here. That’s including myself, and I don’t even want to put myself in the same category with him. He’s the best.”

Cabrera is also the first Venezuelan to win an MVP Award.

“Venezuela is going crazy right now,” Cabrera said. “I got 100 calls, text messages. They can’t wait to see me back in Venezuela. It’s something a lot of people in Venezuela are going to remember. It’s great.”

There are many people in Venezuela who follow Detroit reporters on Twitter and I heard from one as soon as the announcement was made.

In Spanish, @germangimenezgg said, “Here in Venezuela we’re happy and proud of Miguel Cabrera’s MVP.”

Winning the Triple Crown and helping his team reach the playoffs are the two things that set Cabrera apart from the rest of his competition, including Trout, the very deserving rookie.

I remember being in the clubhouse at the beginning of September and seeing on Twitter that Cabrera had won the award for AL Player of the Month for August. Cabrera happened to be sitting right there, so I congratulated him, showing him on my phone what he had done in August — batting .357 with eight home runs and 24 RBI.

At the time, the Tigers were still behind the Chicago White Sox in the Central Division race, so Cabrera looked at his August numbers and said, “I need another one (month) like it.”

Knowing that his team was going to need another ridiculous month like that is one thing, but going out and doing it is quite another. But that’s exactly what Cabrera did.

In September, while battling an ankle injury, Cabrera hit .308 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. To put the icing on the cake, Cabrera finished the regular season with three games in October, hitting .600 with one home run and three RBI.

That last month, every time Cabrera stepped to the plate at Comerica Park, the fans greeted him with “MVP! MVP!”

On Thursday, Cabrera said their support meant a lot.

“Thank you very much,” Cabrera said. “I appreciate what they did, not only me, but how they support the Detroit Tigers. We had an excellent season, we didn’t finish the way we would like. But we’re going to get better.”

In 2010, Cabrera finished second to Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. He has been in the top five in each of the last four seasons.

Some of the voters noted that Cabrera’s willingness to move back to third base from first base to accommodate Fielder was a point in his favor. With all of the things that Cabrera accomplished this past season, he said playing third was the thing that impressed him the most.

“I was trying to play good defense,” Cabrera said. “I tried to keep the ball in front of me.”

Defense was the one area where Trout clearly had the advantage, as those who favor Sabermetrics reminded everyone.

When asked about the “old school” statistics such as batting average, home runs and runs batted in vs. the “new school” statistics like WAR (wins above replacement) and UZR (ultimate zone rating), Cabrera had the perfect answer.

“You can use both,” Cabrera said. “In the end, the game is going to be the same. You gotta help your team win. New stuff and old stuff, my goal is always to help my team to win.”

Cabrera did help his team to win and there’s no question the Tigers wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him. It doesn’t get much more valuable than that.

This is why Cabrera is the 2012 AL MVP.