Rounding Third: AL MVP shouldn't be a debate

The time for debating is over.

Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rookie Mike Trout will be named the American League MVP on Thursday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Now there are three other finalists for the award, but with all due respect to Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano and Adrian Beltre, this is clearly a two-horse race.

On the one hand you have Cabrera, Major League Baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and a player who almost single-handedly carried his team to an AL Central title.

Then, you have Trout, the AL's Rookie of the Year, who had one of the best seasons ever, let alone for a player in his first year. But, Trout's Angels didn't make the playoffs, despite finishing with a better record than Cabrera's Tigers.

Now the popular opinion is that since the Tigers reached the postseason Cabrera should have an edge. But should Trout be penalized because he played in a better division?

There are also the stat-obsessed who will tell you that Trout saved the Angels 11 runs with his defense in the outfield whereas Cabrera cost the Tigers 10 runs at third base. And between his defense and his base running, Trout was about 35 runs more valuable to the Angels than Cabrera was to the Tigers.

But, this isn't a case of new stats versus old stats. It's a matter common sense.

Cabrera was the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. And his team reached the postseason. He should be the American League MVP.

With a batting average of .330 along with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, Cabrera led the American League in all three categories and finished tops in both leagues in homers and runs batted in.

Cabrera was at his best down the stretch and capped his terrific campaign by hitting .333 with 11 HRs and 30 RBIs since the start of September.

He also topped the AL with 377 total bases, 84 extra-base hits and a .606 slugging percentage, while he was second with 109 runs scored and 205 hits, fourth with a .393 on-base percentage and seventh with 40 doubles.

Yes, there have been other players to win a Triple Crown without nabbing an MVP, but it won't happen this time.

Trout, though, put forth a season for the ages and was a unanimous selection as the AL's top rookie earlier this week.

The 21-year-old outfielder, who is trying to join Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season, became the only player in major league history to hit at least .320 with 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases in a single season.

In all, Trout batted .326 with a .399 on-base percentage, 30 home runs, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases.

He led all rookies in nearly every offensive category and was named the AL Rookie of the Month in May, June, July and August, becoming the first player to claim the award in four consecutive months.

Forget his stats for a second, Trout's best case could be the fact that the Angels' season turned around when he was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on April 28.

Cabrera may have won a Triple Crown, but Hamilton came darn close, finishing second to him with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. the 2010 AL MVP also hit .285 and missed 14 games.

Hamilton, of course, may have bigger things on his mind than winning another MVP, as he is the most sought after free agent on the market.

Hamilton's Texas teammate Beltre carried the Rangers through the final two months of the season and did so with a painful abdominal injury. Already the best defensive third baseman in baseball, Beltre finished the year with 36 home runs and 102 RBI.

Then there is Cano, who hit .313, had 33 homers and 94 RBIs for the team with the best record in the AL.

The National League MVP will also be announced on Thursday.