Of course, that statement can't be made without referencing the injury to Josh Hamilton — the injury that kept the outfielder and his .361 average on the bench from Sept. 4-Oct. 1. Though Hamilton returned this past weekend and went 3-for-11 with a homer and three RBIs, it was too little, too late. The surefire MVP had missed too much time, thus opening the door for Cano to steal the spotlight in September.
To Cano's credit, he took advantage of the opportunity. He maintained a batting average that hovered around the .320 mark and drove in 19 runs in his final 29 games of the season, and he capped it off with an MVP-worthy performance Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, when his home run, two doubles and two RBIs proved to be instrumental in the Yankees' 6-5 win.
As baseball-reference.com noted this weekend, Cano recorded 200 hits and 25 home runs for the second straight season. As a second baseman, that's historic, as only Rogers Hornsby did that more than once. That means that Cano, at age 26 and 27, has put together two of the finest seasons ever by someone at his position.
All that said, Cano's numbers aren't as gaudy as those of a typical MVP. His .915 OPS is significantly lower than Hamilton's 1.044 and Jose Bautista's .995. However, there is precedent, as there is history that supports Cano and works against Bautista.
First, the support. In 2008, another second baseman from the AL East put together a very impressive year. Dustin Pedroia batted .326, hit 54 doubles and led the league in hits (213) and runs (118). His power numbers were a bit lacking though, as he had just 17 homers, 83 RBIs and an .869 OPS.
Like Cano this year, Pedroia would probably not have won the award in '08 if not for an injury to the front-runner. In '08, it was Carlos Quentin. The White Sox' slugger missed the final month of the season with a broken wrist, after he had hit 36 home runs and drove in 100 runs in just 130 games. Though his .288 average was significantly lower than Hamilton's .359 this year, the fact that Quentin finished fifth in MVP voting in '08 does not bode well for Hamilton's chances this year.
Then there is Bautista. The Blue Jays' right fielder has essentially come out of nowhere to finish the season with 54 home runs, and he finished just two RBIs shy of the AL lead with 124.
Yet again, Red Sox history comes into play.
In 2006, David Ortiz also hit 54 home runs. He also drove in 13 more runs than Bautista did this year. Ortiz's OBP was higher (.413 to Bautista's .378), as was his OPS (1.049 to Bautista's .995). Ortiz, however, finished third in MVP voting, behind Justin Morneau (.321 average, 34 home runs, 130 RBIs) and Derek Jeter (.343 average, .417 OBP, 14 HRs, 97 RBIs). Ortiz had the gaudy home run total, but it wasn't what the voters were looking for.
While Bautista and Hamilton may be out of it for those reasons, Miguel Cabrera is certainly still a worthy candidate. He posted career highs in homers (38) and RBIs (126), and he hit .328. With a chance to seal his MVP fate in the season's final month, however, Cabrera tapered off a bit, hitting .256 in September and October. In fact, since the beginning of August, when his average sat at .351, Cabrera hit a pedestrian .280. With 12 homers in those 50 games, he could still swing for the fences — but that was just about all he was doing. The talent around him (or lack thereof) in the Tigers' lineup didn't help him, as he had 18 intentional walks in that span. Those aren't his fault, but in a game dictated by a strict set of numbers, they won't help him.
This year, the voters would have had both power and average in Hamilton, but a rib injury ended that quest. They still have the power numbers in Bautista and Cabrera, but recent history has shown that a better all-around season trumps the 50-plus homer numbers.
The fact that he plays for the most visible franchise in the game doesn't hurt, either — especially as Jeter's struggles were widely publicized. The fact that Cano carried the team — with a little help from guys named Rodriguez and Teixeira — into the playoffs could be just as important as the numbers. Fair or not, the unquantifiable "stats" can go a long way in garnering votes.
It may not make sense to everyone — award voting rarely does — but come November, Cano will be AL MVP.