With just a couple of days to go in the 2012 season, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera continued his seemingly unstoppable tear towards the historic triple-crown feat, hitting his 44th homer in the 6th inning off Bruce Chen to take a (perhaps temporary) lead in the American League home run race over Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers.
Cabrera’s 4-hit night also brings his batting average up to .329, extending his slim lead in the category over Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, whose own 1-for-5 night dropped his average to .322. As far as trying to cement a historic feat like the triple crown goes, you’d have to say this was a pretty good night for Cabrera, who will likely head into tomorrow’s slate on games in the driver’s seat to accomplish what no one has done since 1967.
Disregarding the noise from the MVP discussion – I think this particular accomplishment should be appreciated for its uniqueness in and of itself, as opposed to being used as ammunition for the MVP vote – the road for Cabrera to even get to this point is truly remarkable. Sure, he’s long been considered one of the very best hitters in the major leagues, but to maintain his chance at the triple crown this season, Cabrera has done something unprecedented for his career – putting up an 1.000 + OPS for 3 straight months. It’s something that even Albert Pujols hasn’t accomplished over the last 3 seasons, and something that should vault this season from Cabrera among the greats in recent memory – think Hamilton’s 2010, etc.
More importantly, Cabrera’s personal achievement tonight helps vindicate the Tigers from the early-and-mid-season disappointments, helping to spark a team that once looked like it might let the division slip away from them despite the addition of Prince Fielder, to a team that’s taken that very crown and poised to do some damage in the post-season.
There’s been a whole lot of MVP talk over the triple crown and Mike Trout‘s potential 30-50 rookie season (which is incredible in its own right), and there’ll be more militant defenses for either side yet. While these individual achievements are both remarkable and historic, they’re by-products of MLB players using their talents to help their team to the world series. Cabrera might well be very close to accomplishing the former, but it’s only so that he and the Tigers can begin the latter road.