Baseball's always been all about numbers, which is what makes Miguel Cabrera's accomplishment this season so remarkable.
The Detroit Tigers third baseman became the first player in Major League history to win the coveted Triple Crown since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski won it with the Red Sox. Cabrera led the American league in average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139).
Anytime an athlete does something that hasn't been done in 45 is special. We've seen some remarkable, Hall-of-Fame-worthy players in that 45 years. Even during the whole "Steroid Era" we never saw someone win all three major statistical categories. Not Barry Bonds, not Albert Pujols. Miguel Cabrera.
Baseball's Triple Crown is something I've always wanted to see, dating back to when I first started pouring over the Baseball Encyclopedia as a young boy. I studied the history of the game and all the great players I never got a chance to see play. I saw what amazing numbers they put up and wanted to witness it for myself.
I've gotten to see a lot of records and feats in my lifetime (mostly home run records that are now being treated as tainted records), but never the Triple Crown.
I would read athlete's autobiographies in elementary and middle school. One of my favorites was Mickey Mantle's "My Favorite Summer 1956". It was "The Mick" recalling the magical summer he won the Triple Crown with a .352 average, 52 home runs, and 152 RBI for the Yankees.
I learned a lot about the great hitters from 1900-1960. Cobb, Hornsby, Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, DiMaggio. Ted Williams won the Triple Crown twice, yet didn't win the MVP award either time (due to his surly relationship with the media while playing). That particular discussion is where baseball writers find themselves today.
Cabrera won the Triple Crown, but is he the MVP?
Seems like a silly question until you look into what the Angels' rookie phenom Mike Trout did this year. A no-brainer for Rookie of the Year, Trout set numerous rookie and Angels record this year, despite not being called up until three weeks into the season.
Trout is the first rookie to hit 30 home runs and steal 40 bases in Major League history, and is the youngest player (21 years old) to join the "30-30 club." Trout has proven he's a five-tool player, helping the Angels with his average, power, speed, arm and glove, robbing more than a few home runs.
So who is the MVP?
It's Cabrera. Not only did he move back to third base when the Tigers acquired Prince Fielder to play first this year, he also led Detroit charging past the White Sox in September to clinch the AL Central title. And he won the Triple Crown.
Trout's Angels didn't end up making the playoffs, despite the addition of Pujols and other high-priced free agents.
Because it's such a team game, and Trout (or Cabrera) aren't on the mound, it's tough to weigh the decision of an individual award on team success, but that's the way it's done these days. Being on a winning team pulls a lot of weight.
Maybe if neither Trout or Cabrera's teams made the playoffs it would be more of a discussion, but even then the magnitude of the Triple Crown makes it an easy call for me.
Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera, for showing me the things Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle used to do is still possible today.