Mike Trout continues his MVP push

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland fired the opening salvo two days ago while his team was in Chicago.

When asked about Miguel Cabrera's season and the chances the Tigers third baseman could win the American League MVP, Leyland said "it would blow my mind" if Cabrera did not win MVP.

"In this case, I'm not being partial," Leyland told reporters. "Sometimes we are. And I think you should be if it's your player; you're going to stick up for him more than somebody else's player, first. But this time, I'm not even being partial toward Cabrera."

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't about to return serve Wednesday night when he was asked about the MVP candidacy of his rookie center fielder, Mike Trout.

"I think there's a lot of variables that go into what makes up an MVP," Scioscia said. "For the guys that are voting, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some guys are going to put more weight on how a team finishes and some guys are going to put more weight on pure stats and some guys are going to have a combination of both. They're both putting up extraordinary numbers in certain areas. If you look at the whole body of Mike's work, there's no doubt that it compares to [Cabrera] and it will be interesting to see how it works out."

Scioscia sounded like a voter, trying to be politically correct, as he listed criteria for an MVP season before stopping with what he ultimately felt would decide the race, well, at least if he had a vote.

"There are some things that remain to be seen," Scioscia said. "Personally, I do put weight on where a team finishes unless a guy's stats are so far off the charts that no one is even near him. But I think the value to a team would have to influence in a positive way where a team would finish; I think it still remains to be seen. So I think in the last couple of weeks here, there's going to be something that will happen that will separate one guy from the other."

Sure, Scioscia could have easily lauded his player and said "it would blow his mind" if Trout doesn't win the MVP, but he knows better than that. After watching dozens of tight MVP races that came down to the final weeks of the season, he knows that the award will ultimately be decided by the team they play on, not necessarily by the numbers they put up during that time.

Then again, putting up numbers hasn't been an issue for Trout or Cabrera this season. It has been about getting the players around them to be as consistent as they've been. Cabrera leads the AL in batting average (.333) and RBIs (130) and he's second in home runs (41). Trout, who turned 21 last month and was called up on April 28, leads the league with 116 runs scored and 45 stolen bases. He is second in batting average (.327) and has 27 home runs. Trout is the first MLB rookie with at least 25 home runs and 45 stolen bases and is the youngest player to steal 40 bases since Ty Cobb in 1907.

As great as all those numbers are, the winner of the AL MVP this season more than likely will be decided by which player's team makes the playoffs. If both the Angels and Tigers find a way into the postseason, you could essentially flip a coin for the award.

As of Thursday morning, the Angels are 3 1/2 games back of an AL wild-card playoff spot while the Tigers are five games back of the wild card but only two games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.

After the Angels' 6-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, Trout lingered in front of his locker for a bit and talked with Torii Hunter before exiting the Angels' clubhouse.

Trout never expected to be in the conversation for the AL MVP when he was called up from the Salt Lake Bees of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League five months ago. He did, however, expect to make it to the playoffs and that still means more to him than any individual award, even if the two are intertwined.

"I just have to go out there and do my job," Trout said. "We have to go out there and do our job, and our job is to win. And all that individual stuff can wait. We have one goal, and that's to get to the playoffs. All the individual awards can wait after that."