By: Jamie Samuelsen
Justin Verlander took to Twitter yesterday to campaign for teammate Miguel Cabrera to win the AL MVP. It was a nice touch from the reigning trophy-holder. And it was no doubt fueled by the Tigers’ PR department, which even had a custom made T-shirt created so JV could wear it in a photo op. That said, I seriously doubt it will have any impact on the baseball writers who vote for the award at the end of the regular season. They don’t tend to be influenced by PR campaigns or social media movements.
They tend to be moved by results. And they tend to be moved by results when it matters. In other words, Cabrera’s sagging MVP campaign would be much better served by anything that happens during the game rather than anything that happens before or after.
I doubt many Tigers fans care about the postseason awards right now. They care instead about the postseason. Period. And to get to the postseason, the Tigers now need their MVP candidates to start playing like it. Or in the words of Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, the Tigers need their best players to be their best players. I’m not just talking about Cabrera; I’m talking about the big three. Cabrera, Verlander and Prince Fielder.
If the Tigers fail to make it to the playoffs this year, there will be plenty of blame to go around. Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski will get the bulk of it. And the five through nine hitters in the lineup will probably get the rest. Cabrera has had an MVP-caliber year. Fielder has delivered in his first year in Detroit. And Verlander, while not nearly as good as he was in 2011, remains one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. You can hardly point the finger at them. But it’s now September. This is not Raburn time or Peralta time…this is MVP time.
The Tigers are in the midst of a crucial road trip that started with three games in Anaheim and now four in Chicago. Here’s how the Big Three has performed so far away from Comerica Park.
Cabrera – 17 at bats, 1 hit, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 6 strikeouts, 1 ejection.
Fielder – 18 at bats, 2 hits, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 8 strikeouts.
Verlander – 1 game started, 6 innings pitched, 9 hits, 6 earned runs.
Sure, every player is entitled to a bad game or a bad stretch. But that holds true in May and June. Reputations and careers are made by what happens in September and October. I still expect all three to come through in these final few weeks. Cabrera delivered a mammoth homer last night in Chicago (although it did come one at-bat after he left runners at the corners to end the inning). Verlander will have the ball on Thursday night and he seems to relish those occasions.
But excuse time is over and free pass time is over. The stars need to be the stars if the Tigers are going to get this thing done. If Cabrera wants the MVP and Verlander wants him to get it, there’s only one way for it to happen.
And it sure as heck isn’t a T-shirt and a photo op.