September 20, 2012

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What Miguel Cabrera’s Bid for the Triple Crown Means for Baseball

By: Matt Bowen

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers is doing something special right now. He’s flirting with the Triple Crown, which in turn means he’s flirting with history.

Major League Baseball has not had a player finish a season with the highest batting average, most home runs and most RBIs since Carl Yastrzemski did it as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1967.

1967! That’s 45 years ago. Think about how the game has changed since then.

After teammate Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and AL MVP last season, could Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown this year?

Yastrzemski’s heroic ’67 season may have been much of the reason why the league decided to raise the pitching mound, giving us the unforgettable “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968. The ’68 season gave us the best year by any pitcher in terms of ERA. Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals took his team to the World Series with a 1.12 earned run average during the season, before being eclipsed by the Tigers in seven games.

The dominance by the pitchers lasted until steroids took over the game sometime in the mid-1980s. Now a clean game, Cabrera is etching his name in the record books every time he steps to the plate. Considering the evolution of the athlete in the past 45 years, Cabrera is arguably having the best season in the history of baseball. As of September 20, he is leading the American League with a .333 average, 130 RBIs and trails Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton by only a single homer with 41.

Cabrera is the first Tiger to hit 40-plus homers since Cecil Fielder did it in 1991. With a little bit of luck and a lot of natural ability, Cabrera will become the first Tiger to win the Triple Crown since Ty Cobb did it in 1909.

Watching Cabrera at the plate is worth the price of admission alone. The man is simply an artist when it comes to hitting. What he doesn’t get enough credit for is his fielding ability at third base. Before the season started the Tigers made plenty of noise when they signed first baseman Prince Fielder. This meant that Cabrera would move from first to third base. The Tigers were instantly perceived as the worst fielding team in the league, but thanks to both Cabrera and Fielder’s all-around athleticism, the Tigers haven’t been that bad. People wrote-off Cabrera at third, which was their first mistake. He is the most feared man in baseball.

As this season winds down try to catch every at-bat that Cabrera takes because there’s history in the making. Whether you are a fan of the Tigers or not, root for Cabrera these final weeks of the season. In doing so, you’re rooting for history. After all, we may never get to see someone come so close to the Triple Crown again.