Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Miguel Cabrera became the 15th different player in baseball history and the first Venezuelan to win the Triple Crown on Wednesday, but other circumstances make his winning of the Triple Crown seem even more outstanding.
With a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown.
He's baseball's first to achieve the rare offensive feat since Carl Yastrzemski hit .326-44-121 in 1967 and only the 15th different player to win it since 1887.
Even if you think the Triple Crown statistics are just an arbitrary set of numbers, it's impossible to deny its greatness, especially in an era chock-full of situational pitchers and specialty hitters.
There's a reason it hasn't been done in four and a half decades, and I don't think it's coincidental. Look at the names (from the modern era) who have accomplished it; their faces are all on Hall of Fame plaques and Cabrera has the same destiny.
Unfortunately for Cabrera, his historical season comes in the same year rookie Mike Trout has put up unprecedented numbers. The 'Wonder Boy' is receiving majority favor in most MVP discussions amongst baseball 'experts' and despite the rarity of the Triple Crown, there's a distinct group of baseball fans who feel like Cabrera's achievement is as significant as Teddy Roosevelt winning a President's mascot race.
'Statistically, Cabrera's season still doesn't match up with Trout's, and it's the worst Triple Crown in history,' they may say in potentially nasal voices.
But in spite of sabermetric--or any--MVP debates, the Triple Crown is still a spectacular feat on its own.
And even more so for Cabrera, the first Venezuelan to win the award, he did so after dedicating himself to playing one of the tougher positions of all Triple Crown winners--third base, a position he hadn't played since 2008.
During the offseason, Cabrera lost 20-25 pounds to focus on playing the hot corner to accomodate newly-signed free agent, Prince Fielder. Although Cabrera never missed a beat switching positions before, it was the first time in his career he seemingly devoted himself to becoming adequate defensively:
"Since Prince Fielder signed," said Alex Avila, the Tigers' catcher who works out with Cabrera in Florida, "he's thrown himself into being a third baseman. It's all he's thinking about."
Avila spoke about Cabrera's conditioning program on Friday with ESPN, but also over the phone with The Detroit News. Avila said Cabrera has lost 20-plus pounds with the intention of losing "at least 15 more."
It may not have been a concern for most Tigers fans, but the weight loss and quote, "all he's thinking about" was enough to scare me into thinking Cabrera was sacrificing his hitting to some degree. Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things in sports and any significant deviation from a successful hitting routine has to have a direct effect on the player's results, right?
That wasn't the case with Cabrera, though.
Miggy responded by not only improving at third base by 15 runs (DRS), but also by delivering arguably the best offensive season of his illustrious career and the first Triple Crown in 45 years.
So ironically, while his defense may ultimately hurt him in the MVP voting, his offseason commitment to being a third baseman only further validates his hitting ability and makes his winning the Triple Crown that much more damn impressive.