"He's just a cut above the rest," former Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Cabrera before turning the reins over to new skipper Brad Ausmus. "He's just an unbelievable player and an unbelievable kid, to do what he did."
MLB's A-listers, from euphoric New England to all points north, south and west, were presented GIBBY trophies -- the ultimate honors of the awards season -- on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. Votes were cast by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
Lifetime Achievement GIBBY Awards were presented to Mariano Rivera, Jim Leyland, Tommy Lasorda and Jack Morris. Leyland, Lasorda and Morris were on hand at the Meetings on Tuesday to accept, while Rivera was given his earlier.
GIBBYs categories included players from both leagues and performances not only from the regular season but also through the playoffs, making them unique in singling out the best of the best.
This year's GIBBY Awards featured nominees in 22 categories. In addition to Cabrera's double triumph, awards went to Clayton Kershaw (Starting Pitcher), Craig Kimbrel (Closer), Mark Melancon (Setup Man), Jose Fernandez (Rookie), David Ortiz (Postseason MVP), John Farrell (Manager) and Ben Cherington (Executive).
The Breakout Hitter was Chris Davis, and Matt Harvey earned the distinction as Breakout Pitcher. The Comeback Player was Francisco Liriano, and Yadier Molina repeated as Defensive Player of the Year.
GIBBY trophies were also awarded for the year's top Play (Manny Machado's amazing off-balance throw); Hitting Performance (Mike Trout's cycle); Pitching Performance (Tim Lincecum's 13-strikeout no-hitter); Oddity (hidden-ball tricks by Evan Longoria and Todd Helton ); Walk-Off (Giancarlo Stanton scoring a run to secure Henderson Alvarez's no-hitter); Cut4 Topic (Munenori Kawasaki's postgame interview); Moment of the Year (Red Sox's first home game after the Boston Marathon) and Postseason Moment (Allen Craig scoring the winning run on an obstruction call). Video is available via MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
All 30 clubs were represented among the award candidates. Every team had multiple nominees in 2013, reflective of the parity of talent around the game.
The Red Sox, fittingly, led the way with four awards. Farrell, directing a bold new cast of characters following a distressing 2012 season, praised his athletes for their commitment and chemistry en route to a World Series crown to add to those from 2004 and '07 for rapturous New England.
"The one main difference this year would be that you don't have maybe that natural motivation that was built in, with guys wanting to rewrite their story or redeem themselves in a way," Farrell said, looking ahead to the challenge of repeating. "We've got to monitor that we go about our building-block process as we did in Spring Training last year.
"Without taking anything for granted, I think we have a group that has a tremendous amount of personal pride, and that will be the driving force. That will be the bottom line."
The Steel City revival has been several years in the making, but it all came together in 2013 under manager Clint Hurdle and the leadership and brilliance of Andrew McCutchen, the National League's Most Valuable Player, ahead of runner-up Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona and third-place finisher Molina.
The Pirates' wondrous season, marked by resilience and doing whatever it took to prevail, ended in a Game 5 loss in the NL Division Series at St. Louis to the eventual league-champion Cardinals.
McCutchen surveyed the clubhouse in the aftermath and expressed just the right tone of achievement and promise for the future, not frustration and disappointment.
"We are the team that made the change in this franchise, not the team that lost again," McCutchen told his teammates. "We're the team that won. This was just the beginning for us."
Cabrera's encore to his Triple Crown 2012 season also ended in frustration. The Tigers fell to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series after a stirring triumph over the A's in the AL Division Series. Hindered by abdominal and groin ailments, with postseason surgery on the horizon, Cabrera wasn't his familiar destructive self in October, but it did little to diminish his superlative year as the repeat AL MVP. Trout, the Angels' brilliant young center fielder, finished second, with Orioles slugger Davis third in the balloting.
"I never think like I want to win the MVP anyway," Cabrera said. "It was a lot of competition. Trout, Davis -- they had a great year. The last month, it was tough because I had two injuries. It was tough to perform at the level I did five months before. Everything went right in the situation and we went to the playoffs. That was our concern. We were focused on that. I never think like I want to win the MVP."
Had Cabrera been healthy down the stretch, the individual numbers could have been historic. He came out of Labor Day on pace to become the first Major Leaguer to post a season with a .350 average, 50 homers and 150 RBIs since Jimmie Foxx in 1932.
The game's premier hitter by fairly universal acclaim, Cabrera won his third consecutive batting crown with a career-best .348 average, matching his 44 home runs from 2012 while falling two short in RBIs with 137. He led the AL in slugging, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging). Not too bad for a guy who was far from 100 percent down the stretch.
In his age-21 season, Trout was even better than in his astonishing Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012. When he hit for the cycle on May 21, with five RBIs and a stolen base, it was judged the offensive performance of the year by GIBBY voters.
Dodgers ace Kershaw, the first man to lead the Majors in ERA three years in a row since Greg Maddux (1993-95), was the game's premier starter. Kimbrel had another lights-out season for the Braves during the farewell tour of Yankees icon Mariano Rivera, the best to finish games in history.
Stanton, the Marlins' awe-inspiring basher, used his legs to provide the walk-off moment of the year on Sept. 29 in the season finale against the Tigers. Alvarez celebrated the fifth no-hitter in Marlins history from the on-deck circle in the ninth inning, when Stanton scampered home with the game's lone run on a wild pitch.
It was an uneven season for Lincecum, the Giants' two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, but he reached back to his glory days in the pitching performance of the year on July 13 in San Diego.
That night, Lincecum coaxed 29 swings and misses, a career best. Matt Cain, his teammate, had won the award in 2012 for his perfect game.
The World Series was Ortiz's grand stage, but Craig -- sidelined through the first two rounds of the postseason -- supplied the most memorable moment for GIBBYs voters when he doubled in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 and scored the winning run on an obstruction call at third base.
In an intensely competitive category including 31 entries, Machado -- the Orioles' brilliant young third baseman -- produced the leather display of the year. Watch the play here.