Joe Haakenson on Mike Trout-Miguel Cabrera MVP Debate
Joe Haakenson, shown here interviewing David Eckstein at Yankee Stadium, would wake up debating Trout or Cabrera in the middle of the night.
On the day the Major League Baseball playoffs begin and the day after all of the awards ballots were turned in, we took a moment to catch up with longtime Southern California baseball writer Joe Haakenson, who was one of two area writers to vote for the American League Most Valuable Player award.
Throughout his career, Haakenson has covered nearly 2,000 Major League Baseball games over 15 seasons as an Angels beat writer and three seasons as a Dodgers beat writer. He was sports editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram for five years, and now is a freelance writer, having just completed a book, “100 Things Angels Fans Need to Know or Do Before They Die.”
The book will be released in April. Haakenson has also written another book, “Out of the Blue”
on the Angels 2002 World Series winning team. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeHaakenson
We sat down with him for a few thoughts on his MVP voting thoughts and other topics in the latest “Throwing It Back With …”
Question: Everyone debated this AL MVP two-man race: Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera. How long was it considered a two-man race in baseball circles?
Joe Haakenson:I think it started to become a two-man race in late August. Before then, Josh Hamilton was in the mix as well.
Q: How often did you discuss your impending decision with other media types? Coaches? Players? What kind of advice did everyone give to you?
Not often. Mostly with the guy I sit next to in the press box at Angel Stadium. As for coaches and players, I wouldn’t say I would “discuss” my impending decision with them. It was more asking their opinion and not giving my own. I also would not let players or coaches know I had a vote.
Q: When did you finally make up your mind on who to vote for?
I made up my mind Wednesday, the final day of the regular season, and turned in my ballot today. I literally have gone back and forth on who I’d vote for over the past month. And in voting for the MVP, you don’t just pick your top guy, you pick your top 10, in order, so I have to look at more than just the top two or three guys.
Q: Was this the toughest award you’ve ever had to vote for?
By far. Twice in the past week I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was debating the issue in my mind.
Q: Can you ever recall a time when there were two very deserving players for an award, whether it was MVP, Cy Young or Rookie of the Year?
It seems like there are always close races with two deserving candidates.
The title says it all.
Q: Did covering Mike Trout on a nearly everyday basis make it easier or harder for you to make a decision?
JH:It makes it easier to judge him as a player, but it doesn’t make it easier to make a decision.
Q: Everyone puts Cabrera’s season and Trout’s season in historical context as far as numbers are concerned. Watching these guys, who do they remind you of? Or are they just superior players and we’ll be comparing players to these two in a few decades?
JH: I’m not old enough to have seen Mickey Mantle play, but watching highlights of him makes me think of Trout. They both share a rare combination of power and incredible speed. Cabrera reminds me of Edgar Martinez as a hitter, but with more power.
Q: Can you ever remember as much chatter about an award decision during your years covering baseball?
JH: Never. That’s why it’s been such an exciting topic. I’m grateful to be one of the 28 voters.
Q: Best player you ever covered from a must-watch standpoint?
JH: I love watching Trout play these days. In past years, it was a must-watch when Barry Bonds was batting.
Joe Haakenson was in the dugout the night Cal Ripken broke the record.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments covering the major leagues?
JH: Covering the 2002 World Series, particularly Games 6 and 7. … Covering the Angels when they were in Baltimore and Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record. After the game they had a ceremony on the field and I left the press box and went into the Angels dugout to watch. I was sitting in between Gary DiSarcina and Jim Abbott and they were marveling that sitting down at the end of the dugout was Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio was there representing Gehrig and the Yankees and made a short speech. … Another memorable day was in the early ’90s. We were in Texas and hitting coach Rod Carew was going to have early batting practice for a few players. Like, real early. The game wasn’t until 7 but he was going to have BP at 10 in the morning. He needed some people to shag fly balls in the outfield, so he asked some of the writers if we’d help out. Myself and another writer shagged balls in the outfield. Can’t remember who the hitters were except I do remember one of them was Chad Curtis. When the players were done hitting, Carew asked us if we wanted to hit, so of course we said yes and we took BP with Carew throwing to us. … Also, going to Ground Zero in NYC a year after 9/11.