By Jeff Riger
DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) He didn’t have to play, in fact his manager probably tried to talk him out of it — but in the end, Miguel Cabrera did it his way and walked away with baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967.
Cabrera finished the 2012 season on Wednesday night, playing in the Tigers regular season finale in Kansas City. Manager Jim Leyland would have gladly given his star the evening off to get ready for the playoffs, but Cabrera wouldn’t have it. That’s not his style. Despite going hitless Wednesday night, Cabrera walked away with the achievement after putting together one of the all-time great seasons in the game’s long and storied history.
Cabrera finished the year with a .330 average, beating out the Angels’ Mike Trout, who hit .326.
He blew away the Rangers Josh Hamilton in RBI’s, 139 to 128.
And he also edged out Hamilton in the home run category 44 to 43.
With a division title on the line, Cabrera raised his game during the most crucial part of the year, hitting .357 in the month of August with eight home runs, 24 RBI and an OPS of 1.092. Cabrera followed up with a September and three days in October where he hit .339 with 11 HR’s, 30 RBI and a 1.089 OPS. He was hitting over .430 during the last seven days alone.
Cabrera was also named AL player of the month in August and will probably get the honor for the month of September as well.
Cabrera was clutch when it mattered most during the course of the season, hitting .356 with runners in scoring position and .420 with RISP and two outs. Cabrera also dominated late in games raking at a .326 clip in the seventh through the ninth innings.
Cabrera joins 13 other players who achieved the feat a total of 15 times throughout the course of baseball history. Carl Yastrzemski was the last to do it in ’67 with the Red Sox with a .326, 44 HR, 121 RBI season, while Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby did it twice in their careers. Cabrera’s numbers aren’t the best compared to the other 15 times the Triple Crown has been won, but being the first player to do it in 45 years speaks for itself.
St. Louis left-fielder Tip O’Neill led all Triple Crown winners in average, hitting .435 in 1887. The Yankees Mickey Mantle headed the home run category with 52 long balls in 1956, and Lou Gehrig had 165 RBI for New York in 1934.
2012 marks the second consecutive season a Detroit player has secured a Triple Crown achievement. Justin Verlander earned the pitchers’ Triple Crown last season when he led the American League in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strike outs (250). The pitchers’ version of the Triple Crown is not nearly as rare, having been done 38 times. Hal Newhouser is the only other Tiger to accomplish the feat back in 1945.
With the postseason about to start and one of baseball’s near-impossible feats accomplished, only one question remains: Is winning the Triple Crown enough to get Cabrera the MVP?
Seems to me the answer is obvious.