October 3, 2012
Is Miguel Cabrera Getting Enough Attention?
Here we are. It's Game 162 and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is on the verge of winning the Triple Crown. The breakdown: he has a commanding lead in RBIs (139 to Josh Hamilton's 128), is in first place all alone in home runs (44 to Hamilton's 43), and leads in batting average by seven points (.331 to Mike Trout's .324). In order for Cabrera to lose out on this historic achievement, Josh Hamilton would have to hit two home runs to Cabrera's zero this evening (or three-to-one, etc) or Cabrera would have to go 0-for-4 while Trout goes 4-for-4. Neither are all that likely to happen, especially since Cabrera has the luxury of sitting down whenever he likes tonight to preserve that batting average.
With the Triple Crown such a likely possibility—the first one in 45 years, remember—some seem to be wondering why the feat isn't getting enough attention. Now, to be fair, Cabrera's chase is definitely being talked about. It's a top news story on all major sports networks, websites, etc., and people are definitely discussing it online and at the bar. But this is a rare feat, one that hasn't happened since the mound was lowered, and one that is rightly associated with some of the greatest players in baseball history. Usually, when baseball experiences such an historic event, the media goes crazy. Think Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Think Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Think Derek Jeter and 3,000 hits. Think Cal Ripken and Lou Gehrig. Miguel Cabrera and the Triple Crown aren't being ignored, but they certainly aren't being talked about like that.
Some people might blame this on the MVP debate. All this talk about Mike Trout and his overall excellence (and the related tearing down of Cabrera as nothing more than a big bopping statue). WARP vs. RBI. Nerds against the real fans. Some might say it's because he's from Detroit and not one of the media centers like New York or Los Angeles. Some even claim more nefarious reasons.
Maybe there's some truth to these explanations, but it's much simpler than all of that. The Triple Crown, by its very nature, is a surprising and unpredictable feat. With Barry Bonds chasing Hank Aaron, or even Jeter going for #3,000, they are countdowns. We know that they're going to happen and we can celebrate each tiny step there. They never, ever catch us by surprise. The Triple Crown, however, is impossible to seriously consider even a month out. A player heading into September leading the batting title by ten points and home runs and RBIs by 5 or 10 apiece cannot be assured of winning the Triple Crown. A bad week at the plate, an injury, a hot streak by an opponent—anything can happen to knock someone off the board. Just look at Cabrera two weeks ago. No one was certain even then that he would be close to the crown today. There's also the fact that, in the last couple of years, we've seen a few players approach the Triple Crown late into September but not break through (Matt Kemp was a contender last year, Joey Votto the year before).
In short, we just have a hard time believing that anyone will be able to join the likes of Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, and Ducky Medwick until it actually happens. And now it's actually happening. Let's stop analyzing it and enjoy the ride.