Last year’s American League Most Valuable Player race was one of the most contested in recent years, stoking a debate between two distinct schools of thought about the basis of baseball’s highest individual award.
But when the 2013 AL MVP was announced Thursday night, Davis’ bid to become the first Orioles player to win the award in 22 years fell short to last year’s top two candidates.
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Davis finished third in the voting, behind Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who won his second consecutive award, and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who was also the runner-up last season.
The winner was decided by a vote of select members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Two other Orioles players received MVP votes, with third baseman Manny Machado finishing ninth and center fielder Adam Jones 13th. It marked the first time three Orioles placed in the top 13 in MVP voting since 1980, when first baseman Eddie Murray was sixth, pitcher Steve Stone placed ninth and center fielder Al Bumbry was tied for 13th.
Davis led the majors with 53 home runs, 138 RBIs and 370 total bases, won an AL Silver Slugger Award and was a Gold Glove Award finalist at first base. He also single-handedly prevented Cabrera from winning back-to-back Triple Crowns.
But the MVP race wasn't close. Cabrera received 23 of 30 first-place votes; Trout took five. Davis' sole first-place vote came from Bill Ballou of the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette, and he finished with four second-place votes, 11 third-place voces and nine fourth-place votes.
Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson also received one first-place vote and finished fourth, 10 points behind Davis, while New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano rounded out the top five.
Machado, who won the Platinum Glove Award as the league’s best defensive player after winning the Gold Glove Award at third, was listed on 22 of the 30 ballots. Jones, who set career highs with 33 homers and 108 RBIs, was on two ballots. Voters ranked their top 10 players.
Davis’ third-place finish is the highest by an Oriole in AL MVP balloting since Miguel Tejada placed fifth in 2004 following his club-record 150-RBI season. Jones finished sixth in 2012.
Cabrera won his third straight AL batting title this season, hitting .348 while also leading the AL in on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). But he hit nine fewer homers than Davis (44) and trailed him in RBIs (137) after battling through a late-season injury.
Trout, whose bid for last year’s award as a rookie became a rallying cry among sabermetricians, recorded a .323/.432/.557 slash line in 2013 while hitting 27 homers and 97 RBIs. He led the AL with 109 runs and 110 walks. Trout also led the majors in the highly valued metric of offensive wins above replacement (10.0), bettering both Cabrera (9.0) and Davis (6.9).
While carrying the Orioles offense, the 27-year-old Davis also became the third player in baseball history to hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in a season, joining Babe Ruth and Albert Belle. His 96 extra-base hits were the most by a major league hitter since 2005, but the Orioles’ third-place finish in the AL East and postseason absence did not help his MVP candidacy.
Still, Davis compiled a season never before seen in Orioles history. He set a franchise record for homers in a season, breaking Brady Anderson’s previous mark of 50, in 1996.