You know what fan loyalty is: going to the last game of the season when your team has been mathematically knocked out of playoff contention, so I feel it’s important to commend those fans who stick by their team this time of year, when this day is the end of the year.
Onto the big stories of the day:
1. The A’s crush the Rangers to win the AL West
The Oakland A’s overcame an early Rangers’ scoring spree to beat them 12-5 in Oakland, completing an epic comeback after being down five games with nine games to go. The A’s didn’t play it like a regular season game: they played it like playoff game, because that’s what it was. The winner gets to avoid the one game wild card play-in game, and that was worth playing for.
This game was truly special, and it’s something that doesn’t happen a lot in sports: it was a winner-take-all matchup. You didn’t have the situation that the Yankees and Orioles (teaser: more on them next) had, where there’s two games, and the possibility of a tie. No, the two teams were there; there was going to be a winner and a loser, and the loser had to play a game just to make the tournament (which is still better than sitting at home, for what it’s worth).
As a Giants fan, I also think it’s something special that both Bay Area teams are in the playoffs. I lived in New York when both the Yankees and the Mets made the playoffs in 2000, and that meant something to the greater New York area. Yes, it was divisive, but it energize the city; and I think that the Bay Area is feeling that right now. I’m seeing A’s fans who haven’t had a reason to be excited in a while going nuts; I’m seeing Giants fans who are thrilled at the potential for a BART series (I figure that since the World Series is being aired on Fox, they’ll find someway to make a Simpsons tie-in to it).
Finally, I want to congratulate Billy Beane, who has stuck with the A’s through thick and thin. Enjoy the party, Billy.
2. Yankees stomp the Red Sox; Orioles fall to the Rays
We finally have a winner in the AL East. The division, whose dominance of the wild card must be considered one reason why MLB added a second, saw one of the season’s most exciting divisional races need the full 162 game season to attain resolution, and it was worth every bit of torture, to borrow a phrase from the SF Giants fanverse.
The Rays dominated against the Orioles 4-1, beating them with little difficulty. That game ended in the midst of the Yankees stomping the Red Sox 14-2, which led to cheers in Yankee stadium, but didn’t diminish the significance of the Yankees continued game; they didn’t want to “back in” to the AL East title, they wanted to win it outright. Joe Girardi and his staff were smiling in the dugout (it’s pretty hard not to when you’re up by seven or more runs), but they weren’t laughing too much; they wanted to focus on the matter at hand. In the end, they completed the game. Then they celebrated.
I am partial to the Yankees, which is why I feel compelled to point that for that crowd in Yankee stadium, there was nothing more satisfying than securing the AL East title against the Red Sox. Granted, they weren’t playing for them for the title, but it’s an awesome sight.
The Orioles have had a great year, and although, unlike the A’s, they weren’t able to complete the comeback for the division crown, they still had one hell of a season. Unlike perennial contenders like the Yanks and Sox, they truly came out of nowhere. They may be in the play-in game, but I give them the edge against Rangers, since they didn’t suffer such a deflating loss as the Rangers, and since they aren’t reeling from blowing a 13 game division lead. I can easily them getting revenge on the Yankees in the ALDS.
3. Miguel Cabrera wins the triple crown; automatic MVP?
In a feat not achieved in 45 years, Miguel Cabrera won the triple crown, which coupled with Mike Trout’s incredible year in Anaheim, has led to an interesting debate.
For starters, I think that yes, Cabrera is the MVP, but not just because he won the triple crown. To say that winning the triple crown automatically ensures you win it is not only foolish, it diminishes the achievement of Cabrera and Trout. Trout is pretty obvious, but Cabrera for the reason that not only did have an incredible year of himself, but he led his team to the playoffs.
It is unfortunate that the MVP award has become attached to statistically great seasons the way it has. When LeBron James won the MVP with the Heat last year in the NBA, it was because he was a team leader who rallied his team to the number one seed. Yes, he had great numbers, but the intangibles are likewise undeniable.
Cabrera provided the spark on offense, which in a tangible sense provides runs, but in the intangible sense gave a lot of comfort to their batters, who could count on him to drive them in, or to hit that big home run. The triple crown is nothing but stats. The MVP is everything.
Mike Trout did amazing things for Anaheim and the Angels, and I recognize that he missed part of the year being in the minor leagues, but the fact is that teams that miss the playoffs usually don’t have MVPs on them. One knock against him winning it this year, which I think is bogus, is the “he’s young, he’ll get his” mentality; there’s no assurance of that, and if Cabrera had melted down in the last stretch of the season, I have no doubt that he’d be a lock for it.
However, Cabrera is your MVP. I won’t make a huge fuss if Trout gets it, but Cabrera has done everything to earn it, especially if you consider that he continued to succeed brilliantly even all the pressure that was on him.