Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera: Can He Win Baseball’s Triple Crown?

Rick Osentoski — US PRESSWIRE

 

At the end of play this October 1, the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories with two games remaining.

Tonight in Kansas City, he went 4 for 5 with a home run as the Tigers clinched the AL Central title with a 6-3 win.

The homer, his 44th, breaks a tie with the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton. One RBI gives him 10 more than Hamilton, who went 0 for 4 in Oakland.  Four hits have him at .329, seven points up on the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer, who went 1 for 5 in Toronto.

I was 14 when Carl Yastrzemski won the last Triple Crown, making it official 45 years ago today as the Boston Red Sox clinched the 1967 American League title on the season’s last day.

His feat got a few headlines, but not as many as the Impossible Dream Sox’ last-to-first run, in the closest four-team race the AL had seen in almost 40 years.

Mickey Mantle had won the Triple Crown only 11 years earlier. Frank Robinson won in 1966. Someone will do it again, the experts, me and my friends included, said. It won’t take long. You’ll see.

Two generations of sluggers haven’t done it.

What Cabrera has accomplished this season is beyond amazing. When the five through nine hitters in the Tigers’ order sputtered, he picked them up.

In August and September, he carried the Tigers when it looked like they would fade and miss out on even a wild-card place in post-season. Opposing managers counted hitters, looking for ways to keep the Tigers from turning the lineup over and bringing Cabrera to the plate once more, game on the line.

He’s just a big teddy bear, says Tigers’ broadcaster Jim Price.

And he is. He helps the umpires by making his own fair or foul calls, hands the catcher his mask when a foul pop reaches the stands, chats up enemy baserunners, smiles all the time, and plays like a kid having the time of his life. Which he is.

And he can hit the baseball. The most difficult task in any professional sport, said Ted Williams. Only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig have done what Miguel Cabrera has done this year: hit more than 40 doubles, and homers, in a 200 hit season.

Cabrera has only average speed and doesn’t beat out infield hits. His are rocketed, scorched past fielders, often over their heads. To do that for six months, consistently — no slumps — in the one-tenth of a second a batter has to decide whether or not to swing, requires skills and endurance not possessed by ordinary mortals.

He’s in a league of his own, says Price after yet another Cabrera blast puts distance between the Tigers and their opponent. There’s everyone else, and then there’s Miggy.

The Tigers’ acquisition of Prince Fielder this spring meant Cabrera had to move from first to third base, where he last played briefly in 2008. He hasn’t been a Gold Glove third baseman, but he’s been better than expected, taking a regular turn in the field with only an occasional rest at DH.

But it’s that Triple Crown that will make Miguel Cabrera the American League MVP. Just wait. You’ll see.

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