By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, the first player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years, added the American League's Most Valuable Player award on Thursday for the 2012 Major League Baseball season.
Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967 to lead the league in the three top traditional offensive categories with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 runs batted in.
He also became the first Venezuelan to win the coveted MVP award, getting the nod over Rookie of the Year winner Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, whose brilliant all-around play had made him a serious challenger to Cabrera.
"I'm very excited. I don't have any words to explain how excited I feel," Cabrera, 29, said. "I never expected I'm going to win because Mike Trout, he got an unbelievable season."
Some pundits favored the overall talents of Trout, making a case that his 30 home runs while hitting .326 with a league-leading 129 runs scored and 49 stolen bases made him the MVP, especially given his defensive brilliance in center field.
Even Cabrera was a fan of the Angels' outfielder, though what was expected to be a close race turned into a rout as the Venezuelan won 22 of 28 first-place votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Trout received the other six first-place votes.
Cabrera said the duel between him and the 21-year-old Trout was good for baseball.
"To see a player like Trout do the kind of stuff he does in the field, people talk about that," Cabrera told reporters in a conference call.
"People can understand how good baseball is, how beautiful it is. Hopefully every year, players come up and do a better job. It's good for baseball."
For all his success with the bat, Cabrera said the most impressive thing he accomplished for the Tigers was his switch from first base to third to make room for free-agent slugger Prince Fielder in the lineup.
"I think (Detroit manager) Jim Leyland made a good decision moving me to third base. He said he thinks I had the ability to push and work hard, to make it a better lineup," Cabrera said.
"The only thing is to try to work hard, try to get better, try to do everything to win games. I think it was the hard thing for me this year."
Cabrera caught fire at the plate late in the season and helped carry the Tigers past the Chicago White Sox to the AL Central title and on to the World Series.
Trout's Angels finished in third place in the AL West.
"I think winning the division, winning games, helped me to win the Triple Crown and the MVP because baseball is about winning, not personal numbers. I think this MVP is about all my team."
Cabrera followed his team mate, ace pitcher Justin Verlander, as the American League MVP winner.
He said Verlander had cheered him on this season.
"He said, 'keep the MVP in Detroit,'" added Cabrera.
Cabrera was also proud to crown a terrific year for Venezuelan players by becoming the first from his country to win the MVP.
"Venezuela is going crazy right now. I'm getting like a hundred calls from back home, text messages," he said.
A record nine Venezuelans were on the rosters of the World Series teams, the San Francisco Giants and Detroit.
This season, New York pitcher Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter for the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez tossed a perfect game, and Pablo Sandoval claimed World Series MVP honors for the Giants.
"It was an unbelievable year for Venezuela," Cabrera said.
(Editing by Julian Linden and Greg Stutchbury)