(AP) Tigers’ Cabrera wins 1st Triple Crown in 45 years
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Miguel Cabrera had just achieved baseball immortality, and everyone around him knew it.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had tears welling in his eyes. General manager Dave Dombrowski kept trying to remind people to stop and enjoy the moment. Prince Fielder simply shook his head in disbelief at the history that had unfolded.
Less than an hour earlier, in the midst of Detroit’s otherwise meaningless 1-0 victory over Kansas City, it had finally become official: Cabrera had won the Triple Crown.
Cabrera finished the regular-season hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs, leading the American League in all three statistical categories, making him just the 15th player to achieve the Triple Crown and the first since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Among those in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs are Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson, who called it “an incredible accomplishment for a gifted young man, and Miguel should be proud of his all-around excellence and consistency throughout the season.”
Cabrera’s achievement wasn’t assured until the Yankees pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in their 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Granderson had homered twice to reach 43 for the year, tied with the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and one shy of the Tigers’ third baseman.
The closest competition in the race for the batting title was Angels rookie Mike Trout, who remains Cabrera’s toughest competition for the AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader in RBIs.
Perhaps befitting one of the game’s reluctant superstars, Cabrera had retired to the visiting clubhouse after he was removed from Wednesday night’s game in the fourth inning.
He watch his milestone become official on the television screens perched in the middle of the room, surrounded by Fielder, reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander and a few other teammates.
Commissioner Bud Selig offered his congratulations, calling the Triple Crown “a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history.”
The crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave Cabrera a standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out in the fourth but remained in the game, allowing Leyland to remove him with two outs in the bottom half of the inning to another standing ovation from thousands of appreciative fans.
Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, and then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet, almost sheepishly acknowledging the crowd.
Cabrera’s pursuit of history has occurred largely in the dark, overshadowed by thrilling playoff races, the sheer enormity of the NFL _ even the presidential election.
An event that in other years might dominate headlines has been mostly cast aside.
Perhaps part of the void has to do with Cabrera’s very nature.
He’s not the boisterous sort, never one to crave attention. He would rather hang out with a couple of buddies than stand in front of a pack of TV cameras, answering the unending stream of questions about what makes him one of the game’s most complete hitters.
To put his feat in perspective, consider horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year was Affirmed in 1978, more than a full decade after Yastrzemski’s magical summer in Boston.
Whether it’s on par with Johnny Vander Meer’s consecutive no-hitters, Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships in golf, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or Brett Favre’s consecutive games streak at quarterback is open to interpretation, and perhaps some bar-room debate.
Those who have witnessed it firsthand certainly have their opinions.
Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval said he was particularly proud that the Triple Crown would be accomplished by a fellow Venezuelan. Cabrera is from Maracay, along the Caribbean coast.
Yes, it seems that every fairytale these days carries a troublesome footnote.
In Cabrera’s case, it stems from spring training last year, when he was involved in a drunken-driving incident. According to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla., Cabrera refused to cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared them to shoot him.
The Tigers have been careful to keep him from having to discuss his personal life, but by all accounts, Cabrera has been a model player ever since. This year, he’s the Tigers’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player “who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.”
While the Triple Crown belongs to Cabrera, the MVP award is still up for grabs.
On one hand, Cabrera dominated the statistical categories favored by traditionalists, the ones that count toward the Triple Crown. On the other hand, Trout was a cut above for champions of new-school baseball thought, those who use more obscure measures such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that are designed to judge a player’s overall contribution to a team.
Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said it would be “a shame” if Cabrera didn’t win the league’s most coveted award. Royals manager Ned Yost earlier offered a similar sentiment.