With individual accolades being handed out to baseball's best for more than a week now, it's time for the finale, the announcement of the ultimate piece of hardware in any awards season.
It's time for the Most Valuable Player Award.
Honoring the very best of the best, the 2013 MVP for each league will be announced on Thursday in a one-hour special on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET, capping off a week of Baseball Writers' Association of America awards with a fitting flourish.
Behind only the World Series trophy ringed with pennants that gets bathed in champagne every October, the MVP is the one trophy any Major Leaguer would be honored to earn. On Thursday, two players will do just that.
In the American League, the finalists for MVP are the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, the Orioles' Chris Davis and the Angels' Mike Trout. In the National League, it's down to the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt, the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and the Cardinals' Yadier Molina.
Since those finalists were announced last week, there has been plenty of time for debate about which players should win each award. The debate won't end with Thursday's announcements, but history will show who won.
The AL discussion once again centers on Cabrera and Trout as it did last year -- this time with a third player right in the thick of it in Davis.
Thus far this awards season, Cabrera has been the one racking up all the bling, from the Hank Aaron Award as the league's top hitter to Player's Choice Awards for AL Outstanding Player and Player of the Year for all of the Major Leagues. Each of the three won Silver Slugger awards as the top hitter at his position.
If Cabrera makes it back-to-back MVPs, he'll be the first American League player to do so since Frank Thomas of the White Sox in 1993-94. Other than teammate Justin Verlander's Cy Young-MVP double in 2011, Cabrera and AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer can give the Tigers baseball's first duo since 2006, when the Twins paired MVP Justin Morneau with Cy Young winner Johan Santana.
Cabrera, the Tigers' slugging third baseman, might have had a better overall season than his Triple Crown season of a year ago, the first since 1967. He posted a career-best .348 average, had jumps of 30 points in slugging percentage and 49 in on-base percentage over 2012 and matched his home run total of 44 despite hitting only one in September while hobbled by injury. He led the Majors with a 1.078 OPS, topping everyone else in baseball by at least 74 points, the largest gap since Barry Bonds blew everyone away in 2004.
But the Angels' Trout is very much making the same statement in the conversation, and his slash lines tell the tale: .323 average/.432 on-base/.557 slugging his second season in 2013 after .326/.399/.564 in simply the best rookie season in history. Plus, there's the speed and the defense and everything else that has Trout presenting one of the best two-year starts to a career in baseball history -- both without postseason berths.
This year, the third wheel is a guy who literally kept Cabrera from becoming the first player to win back-to-back Triple Crowns. Davis went for 53 homers and 138 RBIs -- nine homers and one RBI removed from Cabrera making it a Triple double.
In the National League, there's a similar thread to the discussion -- there are players who led their teams to the October promised land, and there is one who excelled beyond his team's performance.
Goldschmidt, the winner of the NL Hank Aaron Award, might have had the best offensive stats -- leading the NL in RBIs by a margin of 16 with 125 and matching Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez with 36 homers while batting .302. He also won the Gold Glove Award for defense at first base. But the D-backs didn't make the playoffs, finishing .500 and 11 games behind the NL West-champion Dodgers.
McCutchen, meanwhile, batted .317 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs, but that hardly describes the ways he was able to lead the Pirates to their first postseason appearance since 1992. McCutchen was the heart and soul of a turnaround in the Steel City that ended with Blackout conditions at a PNC Park that was SRO in October.
Similarly, Molina made myriad contributions offensively and was without peer behind the plate during the Cardinals' run into the playoffs. It's really his work behind the plate that stands out, but his work beside the plate has become nearly as impressive. In the regular season, which is all that counts for these awards, he ranked fourth with a .319 average with 44 doubles and 80 RBIs and helped lead the way for St. Louis in a key category with a .373 average with runners in scoring position, sixth in the NL.
The presentation of Most Valuable Player awards will mark the final of four straight days of BBWAA awards. This week's awards thus far:
Monday: Rookie of the Year
American League: Wil Myers, Rays. Runner-up: Jose Iglesias, Tigers.
National League: Jose Fernandez, Marlins. Runner-up: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers.
Tuesday: Manager of the Year
American League: Terry Francona, Indians. Runner-up: John Farrell, Red Sox.
National League: Clint Hurdle, Pirates. Runner-up: Don Mattingly, Dodgers.
Wednesday: Cy Young Award
American League: Scherzer, Tigers. Runner-up: Yu Darvish, Rangers.
National League: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Runner-up: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals.
Thursday: Most Valuable Player
AL finalists: Cabrera, Tigers; Davis, Orioles; Trout, Angels.
NL finalists: Goldschmidt, D-backs; McCutchen, Pirates; Molina, Cardinals.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less