Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became Major League Baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, joining a group of eight Hall of Famers who have achieved the feat in the American League.
Cabrera, a 29-year-old Venezuelan, went 0-2 and left in the fourth inning in the Tigers’ 1-0 regular-season-ending win at the Kansas City Royals last night. He finished with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in, the offensive statistics that make up the Triple Crown.
He led the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and New York Yankees Curtis Granderson by one home run, while finishing with 11 RBIs more than Hamilton and 4 percentage points in front of the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout to win his second straight batting title.
“Everybody said to me it was unbelievable,” Cabrera said after the game. “They were excited to see this, enjoy this, be a part of something big and, winning, I feel better.”
The Tigers won the AL Central division and will begin postseason play at home on Oct. 6 against the Oakland Athletics, who defeated Texas 12-5 last night to cap a 13-game comeback and win the AL West title from the Rangers by one game.
Cabrera had to wait until Granderson, who hit two home runs in the Yankees’ 14-2 win over the Boston Red Sox, was replaced by a pinch-hitter.
“It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it,” said Cabrera. “I just had to focus, I had to go out there and do the job. I said, ‘If we win the division, everything would take care of itself.”’
The home run and RBI marks were career highs for Cabrera, a seven-time All-Star who is in his fifth season in Detroit after playing his first five for the Florida Marlins.
League Commissioner Bud Selig said winning the Triple Crown is “a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history.”
Cabrera, a third baseman who, with Trout, is a front-runner for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, went 4-for-5 with a home run on Oct. 1 as the Tigers clinched their second straight AL Central Division title.
Yastrzemski was 28 when he batted .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI for the Red Sox to win the Triple Crown. Ty Cobb was the last Tigers’ player to win it, in 1909. Frank Robinson (1966), Mickey Mantle (1956), Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Lou Gehrig (1934), Jimmie Foxx (1933), and Nap Lajoie (1901) -- like Yastrzemski and Cobb, all Hall of Famers -- are the only other AL players to sweep the three categories in the same season.
“Somebody’s got to do it, whether it’s Cabrera this year or it’s going to be next year or the year after,” Yastrzemski told reporters on Sept. 26 at Fenway Park in Boston. “I’m surprised it’s gone this long, to be perfectly honest.”
The last National League Triple Crown winner was St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Joe Medwick in 1937. Other NL winners were Chuck Klein in 1933, Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and 1925, Heinie Zimmerman in 1912, Hugh Duffy in 1894 and Paul Hines in 1878, according to MLB.com. All but Zimmerman and Hines are Hall of Fame members.
With nine straight years of at least 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .318 career batting average, Cabrera’s on-field consistency has been shadowed by run-ins with the law.
In February 2011, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and resisting arrest after police spotted him drinking from a bottle of Scotch as he sat in his car alongside a Florida road.
In March 2010, Cabrera said he was done drinking alcohol. Five months earlier, Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski picked him up at a police station after a fight between Cabrera and his wife that followed a night of drinking, according to the Associated Press.
Cabrera followed the 2011 arrest by hitting a career- high .344 to claim the AL batting title.
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