A year removed from the rarity of a Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera has made history again with a Most Valuable Player double, winning the American League award for a second straight year.
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen won the National League honor in voting results announced Thursday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the two winners sending a message that the word "valuable" in the middle of the award's name goes beyond stats, and that being a catalyst for a postseason team counts.
McCutchen had 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes to win the NL award by a large margin, while Cabrera had 23 first-place votes to win by almost the same comfortable margin that he did a year ago.
Cabrera, the Tigers' third baseman, became the first AL player since Frank Thomas in 1993 and '94 to win back-to-back MVPs, beating out two worthy finalists in second-year sensation Mike Trout of the Angels and slugger Chris Davis of the Orioles.
"It was a lot of competition," Cabrera said. "Trout, Davis they had a great year. … Everything went right in the situation and we went to the playoffs. That was our concern. We were focused on that. I never think like I want to win the MVP."
Cabrera took those 23 first-place votes and 385 voting points in a 10-place voting system that awarded 14 points for first and then counted down from nine. Trout was second with five first-place nods and 282 points -- almost exactly the same margin as the 2012 MVP race. Davis was third with one first-place vote and 232 points, and A's third baseman Josh Donaldson was fourth with a first-place nod and 222 points.
In the NL, McCutchen -- third in voting a year ago -- parlayed his presence as the heart and soul of the Pirates' first postseason team since 1992 into more votes than the other finalists, Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals.
McCutchen had those 28 first-place nods, plus a second and a third for 409 total points, well ahead of the 242 points for Goldschmidt, who received no first-place votes but 15 second-place votes. Molina, who had the other two first-place votes, finished third with 219 points, followed in fourth by teammate Matt Carpenter with 194.
"I thought it'd be closer, with Goldschmidt's numbers and what Molina did behind the plate to develop all those young pitchers," McCutchen said.
The Pittsburgh center fielder said that becoming an MVP wasn't on his mind, except when Pirates fans reminded him.
"I was just trying to be the best player I could be for my team," he said. "That's definitely what I tried to do every single day, day in and day out.
"But there were times in the game when I'd come up to bat and you'd just hear everybody standing up and chanting 'MVP,' and it was awesome to be able to hear something like that, something you don't hear all the time."
Now, Cabrera and McCutchen are hearing those three precious letters, officially.
With the MVP as the cherry on top, Cabrera wraps up a huge haul this awards season, from the AL Hank Aaron Award to league Outstanding Player and overall Player of the Year in the Players Choice Awards to another Louisville AL Silver Slugger Award as the best hitter at third base, and now the crown jewel of them all. He joins Hal Newhouser (1944-45) as the only two of the eight Detroit MVPs to go back to back, with Hank Greenberg (1935, '40) the only other multiple winner for the Tigers.
Adding Justin Verlander's MVP-Cy Young double in 2011 to Cabrera's back-to-back MVPs, the Tigers are the first AL club to have three consecutive MVPs since the Yankees from 1960-63 -- Roger Maris in '60 and '61, Mickey Mantle in '62 and Elston Howard in '63. Taking it another step further and adding 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the Tigers have done something never done before with five winners of MVP and Cy Young awards over a three-year span.
To earn his MVP double, Cabrera might have had a better overall season than last year's Triple Crown campaign, the first since 1967. He posted a career-best .348 average and matched his home run total of 44 despite hitting only one in September, hobbled by a strained left groin that required offseason surgery. With jumps of 30 points in slugging percentage and 49 in on-base percentage over 2012, he led the Majors with a 1.078 OPS, a 74-point margin over second-place Davis for the largest gap since Barry Bonds in 2004.
"This year was tougher because of injuries," Cabrera said. "I think this one was special."
The runner-up once again, Trout had another superb season, showing off all five tools and posting a .323 average, a .432 OBP and a .557 slugging percentage in 2013 after going .326/.399/.564 in the best rookie season in Major League history. Davis went for 53 homers and 138 RBIs, both leading the Majors, both over Cabrera, who placed second in those departments. Neither the Angels nor the Orioles made the playoffs this season.
McCutchen, like Cabrera, has the NL Hank Aaron Award, Outstanding Player and NL Silver Sluggers to go with the one he'll cherish the most. He became the first Pirates player to win an MVP since Bonds in 1992, and he shares the award spotlight with his skipper, NL Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle -- just as Bonds did in '92 with Jim Leyland. McCutchen becomes the sixth Pirates player to win a BBWAA MVP since 1931, joining Bonds, Willie Stargell (1979, tie), Dave Parker ('78), Roberto Clemente ('66) and Dick Groat ('60).
McCutchen batted .317 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs, numbers that all were down from the year before, but this became a much more important season for McCutchen and the Pirates. In leading the Pirates above .500 and into October for the first time since '92, McCutchen was the at the center of a turnaround in the Steel City that ended with Blackout conditions at a PNC Park that was SRO in October.
"To see the change in the team and in me personally, it definitely means a lot to me," McCutchen said. "It means all the effort put forth and all the sacrifices made are starting to pay off.
"The change in this team and in this city ... it means a lot, and I'm happy to be a part of it."
McCutchen was at his best down the stretch, batting .360 in the last 55 games, and he came through time and time again for a Pirates team that this time stayed in contention all the way to a satisfying end -- an NL Wild Card berth in advance of a five-game battle with the Cardinals in the NL Division Series.
Similarly, Molina made myriad contributions offensively and without peer behind the plate to the Cardinals' run into the playoffs, batting .319 with 44 doubles and 80 RBIs, and hitting .373 with runners in scoring position.
Goldschmidt, the winner of this year's NL Hank Aaron Award, led the NL in RBIs by a margin of 16 with 125 and matched Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez with 36 homers while batting .302, also winning the NL Gold Glove Award for defense at first base. But the D-backs didn't make the playoffs, finishing .500 and 11 games behind the NL West champion Dodgers.
The presentation of Most Valuable Player Awards marks the final of four straight days of major awards handed out to the very best of the best in 2013. This year's list of BBWAA awards:
Rookies of the Year
AL: Wil Myers, Rays. Runner-up: Jose Iglesias, Tigers.
NL: Jose Fernandez, Marlins. Runner-up: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers.
Managers of the Year
AL: Terry Francona, Indians. Runner-up: John Farrell, Red Sox.
NL: Hurdle, Pirates. Runner-up: Don Mattingly, Dodgers.
Cy Young Awards
AL: Scherzer, Tigers. Runner-up: Yu Darvish, Rangers.
NL: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Runner-up: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals.