The players have spoken, and now that Players Choice Awards are in the hands of worthy 2013 recipients, it's clear which ballplayer is on top of the profession in the eyes of his peers, again: Miguel Cabrera.
There were several big winners when the Major League Baseball Players Association announced its annual awards Monday night, but none bigger than Cabrera. In a second straight double honor, Cabrera was voted as the American League's Outstanding Player and the overall Player of the Year in the Majors for a second straight season.
"It just means you need to keep working hard, keep putting it together on the field and keep and keeping doing what you do on the field," Cabrera said during the announcement of the awards on MLB Network.
Cabrera wasn't the only player whose peers put them on a pedestal. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Tigers' Max Scherzer were tabbed the Outstanding Pitchers in their respective leagues, and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen took a second straight National League Outstanding Player honor.
But perhaps the best closing act of all was a pair of awards for the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, voted as the American League Comeback Player of the Year as well as the Marvin Miller Man of the Year.
The comeback award came in the all-time saves leader's final season, which followed a devastating knee injury the year before. Rivera responded with 44 saves and a 2.11 ERA as he raised the saves record to 652.
But it was Rivera's farewell tour that stood out, in that he spent his last road trips going behind the scenes meeting with people who do all the things that keep baseball working throughout the long season -- the kind of thing that earned him Man of the Year honors.
"Those that work behind the scenes, we never see, so that's why it was so important for me to make sure that I said thanks to those who clean the bathrooms and those who do jobs outside and that maintain the stadium, because still that's baseball," Rivera said. "We never have an opportunity to say hello to these people, and I wanted to make sure I did that."
Once again, the biggest star of all was Cabrera, who followed up his Triple Crown season with what on many levels was a better season overall, with a Majors-leading and career-high .348 average, another 44-homer season and 137 RBIs, just two shy of his 2012 total. But, once again, he had some stiff competition from Mr. Everything Mike Trout of the Angels and a powerful season from the Orioles' Chris Davis, who led the Majors with 53 homers and 138 RBIs. Davis and Kershaw were the other two finalists for the overall Outstanding Player award.
McCutchen, too, couldn't be denied, as he took the NL award in a season that was rewarded with the Pirates' first postseason appearance since 1992. The Pittsburgh center fielder -- who won last year's award over Buster Posey, who was voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America as the NL Most Valuable Player -- batted .317 with 38 doubles and 97 runs scored as the heart and soul of the Pirates' run to October.
In the pitching awards, it was two dominant seasons that caught the attention of their Major League peers, and that's the type of honor Kershaw and Scherzer truly appreciate.
"I mean, that's the coolest thing, to have your peers' respect and to see that they recognize what you've done in the year," said Kershaw, who had a Majors-leading 1.83 ERA and an NL-high 232 strikeouts and has won two of the last three NL Outstanding Pitcher awards.
Said Scherzer, who went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA: "That's something that can never be taken away. For the rest of the league to vote me to be the best in the league is something I'll never forget."
In the category of Outstanding Rookie, the players went with stellar right-hander Jose Fernandez over Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig in the NL, rewarding the Cuban-born, Florida-raised pitcher for a long season of solid work that saw him post a 2.19 ERA in 28 starts.
In the AL, it was a player whose name was buzzing through the lobby at the Winter Meetings, eventually traded from Kansas City to Tampa Bay: Wil Myers. The 22-year-old came in with huge hype, having been acquired in a package that included ace veteran James Shields and Wade Davis, and Myers delivered once he was called up in June, stacking up a sizable rookie resume with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and 23 doubles in 373 plate appearances.
While Rivera's AL Comeback Player and Man of the Year was a unique double, the NL Comeback Player award went to Francisco Liriano of the Pirates, who came back from a couple of rough years to become a key part of Pittsburgh's run to the NL Division Series.
Liriano, who had a 5.34 ERA in a 2012 season split between the Twins and White Sox, posted a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts, making a complete turnaround that became part of Pirates history.
"To be honest, I was a little surprised myself with the year I had," Liriano said.
His peers noticed, and they noticed Cabrera and Cutch, and Kershaw and Scherzer.
And they definitely gave one last salute to the man called Mo, whose influence on and off the field earned a final reward.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com.