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Making MLB history with the Triple Crown

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Detroit's Cabrera first Crown winner in 45 years

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers had a season for the ages in 2012. He batted .330, with 44 home runs and 139 RBI, leading the American League in all three categories.

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, one of the most elusive achievements in the sport. He accomplished something that only 15 players before him had done; something that hadn't been seen in baseball in 1967 the year Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski won the Crown while playing with the Impossible Dream team 45 years ago.

Forty-five years. You can literally count on one hand the number of current major leaguers who were even alive the last time someone won the Triple Crown. The list of those who have achieved it includes some of the most illustrious names in the game baseball legends like Ty Cobb (1909), Lou Gehrig (1934), Ted Williams (1942, 1947) and Mickey Mantle (1956).

Truth be told, it was starting to look like we'd never see another Triple Crown winner. Certain aspects of and attitudes about the game have changed significantly. Managers are using more pitchers than ever before. Strikeouts have lost a great deal of their former stigma. The dividing line between high-average hitters and power hitters has grown sharper.

In the past two decades especially, the game has stacked the deck against potential Triple Crown candidates. Still, a few players have made admirable runs in that time Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas in the 1990s, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols in the 2000s. However, even these elite talents failed to put all of the pieces together over the course of a single season.

Miguel Cabrera did.

In the PED testing era, pitching has been king; this season has been no different. 2012 saw a record-tying seven no-hitters, the rise of some dominant bullpen arms and a precipitous drop in power numbers across the league. With all of these obstacles to overcome not to mention a switch in position from first base to third base before the season Cabrera still assembled a Triple Crown season.

And yet, the story is receiving little fanfare. What attention it is gathering focuses not on Cabrera's historic feat, but his MVP candidacy. It's a clash of the sabermetric new guard and the old school traditionalists. The darling of the stat set is rookie Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout. There's no denying the 20-year-old Trout has had a season for the ages. He hit .326 with 30 home runs. He led the league with 49 stolen bases and played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. And he did it all despite not being called up to the majors for the first month.

Trout's is perhaps the best rookie season we've ever seen. In any other year, it would be a no-brainer; Trout would join Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the third player to ever win MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season.

But Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown.

While stats like batting average and RBI may have fallen out of vogue in recent years, the fact remains that for those of us who grew up combing through the newspaper for box scores and praying that our team would be the featured Game of the Week, the Triple Crown is the greatest of batting feats. Amalgamated statistics such as WAR and VORP will never have the same simple resonance as the Triple Crown categories. Their simplicity is what makes them so endearing and their history is what imbues them with importance. Those numbers matter because they're the numbers that mattered when we first fell in love with the game.

In the long run, it matters little whether Cabrera or Trout is the 2012 AL MVP. There's an MVP every year. Miguel Cabrera has carved out a place in the game's history; long after this season has faded into memory, he will be remembered and celebrated among some of the giants of the game.


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