Miguel Cabrera accomplishes something truly historic
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com October 4, 2012 9:56PM
SELECT COMPANY: THE LAST 5 TRIPLE CROWN SEASONS
Updated: November 6, 2012 6:35AM
Can we get a little love for Miguel Cabrera?
The Detroit Tigers slugger just achieved one of the biggest milestones in sports in almost total silence.
I mean, you could have heard a mouse pee on cotton, it was so quiet Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.
All Cabrera did was win the first Triple Crown in baseball in 45 years, and you might have thought he hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Why, ESPN didn’t even cut in for Cabrera’s at-bats (he went 0-for-2) in the Tigers’ final regular-season game against the Royals, a game he didn’t have to play in but did. ‘‘The Worldwide Leader in Sports’’ thought it more important to stay nailed to that Red Sox-Yankees game.
Forty five years!
We get no-hitters all the time. We had a decade in which several players hit 50-plus home runs. We had a knuckleballer win 20 games this season. Lord, people, we had three perfect games pitched in 2012! I don’t mean to beat a dead stat, but there have been nine perfect games pitched since 1998. Hooray for perfect.
But nobody since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 had led his league in batting average, homers and RBI. Cabrera’s winning numbers were a .330 average, 44 homers and 139 RBI.
Those aren’t just winning numbers; they’re outstanding numbers. Cabrera had a better batting average than Yaz, more homers than two-time Triple Crown winner Ted Williams and more RBI than any Triple Crown winner since 1937.
Once more, how often does this happen? How hard has it become to achieve? Consider this: It happened nine times in the 45 years leading up to Yastrzemski.
The difficulty, obviously, is the batting-average part. Sluggers can amass a lot of homers and RBI just by closing their eyes and swinging the sledgehammer. An extreme case in point: The White Sox’ Adam Dunn had 41 homers and 96 RBI this season but batted only .204.
And if you’re a for-average guy, you generally won’t be taking the heroic swings that bring lots of homers and RBI unless you’re really, really talented.
Which Cabrera is.
So why the lack of hoopla about his accomplishment? After all, Cabrera’s pursuit of the Triple Crown climaxed in a dramatic finish to the regular season in which the Tigers overcame the Sox’ late three-game lead at least in part because of his heroic output.
One reason for the lack of hoopla is that, with the full ascendance of sabermetricians as the philosopher kings of baseball team-building, old stats somehow have lost their luster.
Homers? Pshaw! The new brainiacs want homers per times at bat with two outs and men on base. Why bother with RBI when we can have — dum-de-dum! — WAR?
It’s all a load of manure to me because numbers and situations can be massaged into anything anybody wants. When PECOTA, PERA, LIPS and EqA trump good old batting average, it’s time to wonder when machines will play the games and Theo Epstein will be anointed
Genius For Life.
Another reason for the low noise involved is the plethora of awards that now are given for everything. Plus, Cabrera is Latin, not perfect in English, not a dynamic personality, just a ballplayer.
Well, there is his drinking past. That includes arrests in 2009 and 2011 for being drunk, one time so drunk that he told cops to go ahead and shoot him. But he has been on the straight-and-narrow since the last incident, and one wonders about the frailties of oversized, overly talented athletes.
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930) was a terrible drunk. Mickey Mantle (Triple Crown in 1956) was an alcoholic. Talented Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is a day-by-day recovering addict.
And the other thing that comes to mind while pondering Cabrera is that the Sox thought they had acquired him in a trade a few years ago. He went to the Tigers instead, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Maybe Cabrera would have had more issues in Chicago. Maybe he would have led the Sox to the World Series this season. Who knows?
But the Triple Crown is for real.