When Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, won the first baseball Triple Crown since 1967 this September in Kansas City, he reacted in a way we should have seen coming. Players will always contend that individual accomplishments mean little to nothing to them in comparison with their teams’ overall goals. Superstar quarterbacks will say that winning the MVP would be nice, but winning the Super Bowl would be a whole lot nicer. Olympians will even attest that they want to win gold medals for themselves, but that representing their country is the top priority. And it annoys the heck out of sports journalists.
So it came to no surprise when after officially winning the coveted achievement by leading the American League in home runs (44), runs batted in (139), and batting average (.330), this is what he had to say.
“It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it,” Cabrera said. “I just had to focus; I had to go out there and do the job. The hardest part was to go out there and focus and win games. I said, ‘If we win the division, everything would take care of itself.'”
There it is. He couldn’t just enjoy the fact that he’d become only the 15th player and 17th occasion in MLB history to win the Triple Crown. He couldn’t just brag on himself even when everybody would’ve excused him if he had. The Tigers had already clinched a playoff position before they beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 that night (Cabrera went 0-2 that night by the way), so why couldn’t he just stress his happiness instead of the difficulties that the sudden media flurry brought? He had just accomplished an impressive feat, but couldn’t bring himself to be selfish.
And to call the Triple Crown impressive is an understatement. Even the term itself is synonymous with logistically doable but practically impossible. Just ask any horse racing fans why their version of the Triple Crown hasn’t been won since 1978. Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox was the last player to accomplish the baseball feat back in 1967 and the only players to have done it twice were Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams who did it in the ‘20s and ‘40s respectively.
It used to be more common occurrence. The feat was accomplished six times during the 1922-1937 seasons, only a 15-year span. The next five occasions took place from 1942-1967, a 25-year span. The only one after that took another 45 years. Based on this exponentially slowing pace I think it’s fair to say that baseball itself has evolved to make the Triple Crown increasingly more difficult as the years progress. The reason why it became rarer and rarer is not what is important here, although it should be noted that the reason is probably as simple as pitchers become progressively tougher, as is well known in the baseball world.
No, the important thing here is Miguel Cabrera, and that despite the long drought the Triple Crown suffered he has captured it. That after 45 years of close calls, home run sluggers with low batting averages, and vice versa, Cabrera has pulled off one of the most dominant campaigns in modern baseball history. Shockingly it isn’t a sure thing that he will even win the AL MVP trophy because of Mike Trout’s impressive rookie season, but I’ll remind you again of Cabrera’s own sentiment towards his accomplishment and individual accolades in general. He doesn’t care about any of that. Well, maybe Cabrera let a little bit of celebration slip past when he described winning the crown as giving him an “unbelievable feeling,” but for the most part Miguel Cabrera is concerned solely about leading his Tigers to a World Series title. And if he keeps playing at his historic pace, he may very well succeed.