Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera is on the cusp of winning his first Most Valuable Player Award. Who stands in his way?

Albert Pujols. Joe Mauer. Ichiro Suzuki. Todd Helton. What do these four major leaguers all have in common? Well, besides the millions and millions and MILLIONS of American dollars they earn on an annual basis, each of these players are the only active players in Major League Baseball with career batting averages higher than Miguel Cabrera’s (.318). Excluding Helton, each player has won the Most Valuable Player Award for his respective league at one point or another (many believe Helton was snubbed of the award in 2000 when he led the league in hits, doubles, total bases, on-base percentage, on-base plus slugging and batting average, which was .372, his career-high mark).

Many within the game regard Cabrera as the best hitter in the American League and his numbers don’t do much to stray from that notion. Cabby has driven in over 100 runs in every season minus his rookie campaign and has hit the 30 Home Run plateau in eight of the past nine years. He currently ranks 26th among active players in runs batted in (RBI) but is the only player in the top 30 of that list who is under the age of 30.

Cabrera could probably work his way down to the trim, lean figure that he showcased as a rookie in Florida by the time you finished listing his career accolades. He’s that good, and has been for quite some time. Cabrera has been the American League batting champion, the American League RBI champion and the American League Home Run champion at separate points in his career. But one award that has eluded him since he first laced up his spikes as a professional back in 2003 is the MVP award. He has finished in the top five of the MVP voting five times in his career but has never taken home the hardware.

So this is the year that he finally gets that honor, right?

Well, there are a couple of guys out in the AL West who might have something to say about that. One of them is a young man in Anaheim, who, wasn’t permitted by law to drink alcohol until about three weeks ago. He goes by the name of Mike Trout and he’s pretty phenomenal. Trout has a higher batting average (.345) and on-base percentage (.410) than Cabby, more runs scored (99) and, shockingly, more stolen bases (41, note the sarcasm).

[caption id="attachment_303" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Is Cabrera the front-runner for the AL MVP? (Credit: UCinternational)"]Miguel Cabrera[/caption]

Trout has 68 less at bats than Cabrera yet amazingly has only 14 less hits. Oh, and he’s already one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. Cabrera has fielded the "hot corner" better than most people expected before the season began, but he’s certainly not going to be a Gold Glover anytime soon. Also, one of the key components that contributes to who wins the MVP award each year is team success, and Cabrera’s Tigers are in a three-way tie for the second Wild-Card spot in the standings, while Trout’s Angels are currently three games back.

The other slugger embroiled in the MVP race as August winds down is the man who trumped Cabrera for the very same award in 2010; Josh Hamilton. Had it not been for the out-of-this-world hot streak that Hamilton enjoyed in May, we’d have a two-man race on our hands. But because he hit 12 home runs with 32 RBI and batted a scorching .344 in just 25 May games, coped with the fact that his Texas Rangers currently sit atop the AL West Standings, Hamilton is very much in the thick of the MVP race. He’s also picked things up in August in a serious way, knocking in 23 runs in just 22 games this month.

So what separates Cabrera from the pack?

First and foremost, he has been a model of consistency. He has hit at least .298 with over 20 RBI in every month of the season. He’s also the rock in an otherwise suspect batting order. Prince Fielder has been as good as advertised for Detroit this year, but the 5-9 spots in the lineup have grossly underachieved all year long and who knows where this team would be without Cabrera’s 105 RBI. Finally, Cabrera has carved out a reputation for being as clutch as they come when the game’s on the line. He is hitting a ridiculous .447 this season with runners in scoring position and two outs. Simply put, he gets the job done at the end of ball games.

With about 40 games, give or take, remaining on the MLB schedule, the performances of Cabrera, Trout and Hamilton down the stretch will obviously factor heavily on the voters decision come October. And even though Cabby will turn 30-years-old this April, it appears safe to say that if he doesn’t snag the MVP award this season, it’s still just a matter of time before he adds it to his long list of accomplishments. He’s just too good.

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