Why Mauer won: Catching is a daily grind and players often get beat up so much that it is hard to maintain a consistent hitting performance. One of the few exceptions is Joe Mauer, who became the second catcher in 33 years to win the American League MVP. Mauer won in a landslide, finishing with 27 out of 28 first-place votes and 387 points.
He won the award after winning his third batting title and second in a row. Mauer also won after leading the league in average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587). Besides all those impressive numbers, Mauer’s performance down the stretch certainly earned him the award in a season where he missed April with a back injury. After teammate Justin Morneau went down with a season-ending back injury, Mauer batted .378 the rest of the year.
Why they didn’t win
Mark Teixeira – Teixeira’s first campaign in pinstripes was certainly a fine one as he batted .292 while tying for the league lead with 39 home runs and finishing with a league-best 122 RBI, earning the first baseman 225 points. Nobody has won the AL MVP batting less than .295 since Reggie Jackson in 1973 and considering the year Mauer had, it would have been tough to envision Teixeira winning it. Though Teixeira batted .343 in September, the final month did have the same urgency for the Yankees as it did for the Twins. Teixeira also batted .310 with 34 home runs and 107 RBI as the Yankees won 88 of their final 143 regular-season games but contributing to a team’s dominant performance does not necessarily warrant this award when it is against the circumstances faced by Mauer and the Twins.
Derek Jeter – Jeter’s 2009 regular-season was among the finest of his career, especially when you consider he turned 35. He hit .334 with 107 runs scored and was second in the majors with 212 hits. All of this was accomplished in a season as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter. Jeter’s defense also improved but his performance falls into the same description as Teixeira’s when compared to Mauer. Jeter also became the Yankees’ all-time hit leader but the hit broke Lou Gehrig’s mark was nowhere near as critical as any of Mauer’s hits in September. Jeter finished with 193 total points and lost to a Twin for the second time in four seasons.
Miguel Cabrera – Somehow Cabrera picked up the other first-place vote and finished with 171 points. Despite the disappointing finish for the Tigers, Cabrera’s season was still a solid performance as he batted .324 with 34 home runs and 103 RBI. It is more likely that diehard Tigers fans will recall Cabrera’s lack of performance the final week when he was 3-for-20 and the Tigers dropped four of their final five games, including the one-game playoff to the Twins. It was during that time Cabrera foolishly was involved in a domestic altercation and the night after being in custody, he was 0-for-4 and stranded six runners against the White Sox.