Neither was crowned as the eventual winner of the award, which went to Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the results of the voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, announced on Monday. Granderson placed fourth, earning three first-place votes and 215 points, while Cano finished in sixth place with 112 points.
But that does nothing to diminish the terrific seasons assembled by both players.
Granderson, 30, batted .262 and set new career highs with a Major League-leading 136 runs scored, 41 home runs and 119 RBIs in 156 games during his second season as the Yankees' starting center fielder.
A major part of Granderson's breakout season was his improving ability to hit left-handed pitching, an issue that had plagued him in the past.
"I think it was just a matter of getting comfortable," Granderson said this year. "Whenever you aren't getting the results you want to, you've got to figure out how to get them."
Continuing a turnaround that started in August 2010 with hitting coach Kevin Long in an Arlington batting cage, Granderson hit a career-high 16 home runs off left-handed pitching in 2011, a number that led the Majors.
He also became the only Major League player in history to record at least 40 home runs, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases in a single season.
"When you turn yourself into one of the top 10 players in the Major Leagues," Long said this year of Granderson, "you've done some work."
When he was reminded that he started the year with Granderson batting eighth, Yankees manager Joe Girardi quipped, "What was I thinking?" But Girardi had no way to know for sure that Granderson's troubles were dissolving.
"It's incredible what he's done this year," Girardi said. "There's been a lot of talk about MVP, and he's been unbelievable for us."
Still, even late in the season, Granderson was deflecting attention about his surge at the plate. He fretted over his high strikeout total (169) and repeatedly suggested that he shouldn't be considered a home run hitter.
"It's one of those freak things," Granderson said. "I was thinking, the home run guys hit mammoth shots and mine, as long as they just get over the fence, that's great -- it doesn't matter how far they happen to go. I'm still not in that Alex [Rodriguez] category or [David Ortiz] or Adrian Gonzalez, to just do it at will."
In a light-hearted September interview, Cano suggested that if he had an MVP vote, he'd give it to himself. New York's smooth-fielding second baseman backed off his comments slightly the next day, but voters considered his season nevertheless.
"I got asked, 'If you have to vote for one of you guys, who would you vote for?' I would vote for myself," Cano said. "That's what I said. The numbers are there, but I didn't say that I had to be or wanted to be."
Cano said that day that he would be fine with whoever eventually got the MVP nod.
"I would say, whoever you guys pick," Cano said to a group of reporters. "That's not my choice. It's like if you ask my mom, 'Who is the prettiest man in the world?' She's going to say me."
Cano, who turned 29 in October, continued his emergence as one of the game's all-around top middle infielders. Playing in 159 games, he batted a potent .302 and set a career high with 118 RBIs while belting 28 home runs.
Never going more than two successive games without a hit, Cano saw his RBI total surpass Tony Lazzeri's 113 in 1926 to set the Yankees' all-time record at second base.
"When I'm home in the offseason, all I have in my mind is to play 162 games," Cano said. "I don't want to come here, sit around and take off every other day, because I know this team is all about winning."
Cano ranked second in the Majors with 81 extra-base hits, trailing only Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox (83), and led the Major Leagues with 91 RBIs with runners in scoring position.
"I think Robbie doesn't get credit for his toughness," Girardi said. "I think sometimes people see the way he moves with grace and don't necessarily equate that to a toughness, but Robbie's a tough kid. ... That's how I look at Robbie Cano, and it's a luxury to have him."
Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia received two fifth-place votes, good for 10 points. First baseman Mark Teixeira logged a seventh-place vote and a 10th-place vote (five points), and right-hander David Robertson received one 10th-place vote for a point.
American League Most Valuable Player voting totals
|Jacoby Ellsbury||Red Sox||4||13||4||1||4||1||1||242|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||5||7||4||4||4||1||1||1||1||231|
|Adrian Gonzalez||Red Sox||1||1||2||6||8||3||3||1||105|
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||4||1||4||6||48|
|Paul Konerko||White Sox||5||1||11|
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.