Tigers' Cabrera wins 1st Triple Crown in 45 years
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Only a precious few people will ever know exactly how it looked when Miguel Cabrera, one of baseball’s reluctant superstars, finally celebrated history 45 years in the making.
Cabrera had slipped away to the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night, where he waited out the final moments in his bid for the Triple Crown. Once everything transpired, all the other possibilities played out, he could finally revel in the feat.
‘‘It was like, everybody said to me it was unbelievable,’’ said Cabrera, who was joined in the clubhouse by Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and a few other teammates. ‘‘They were excited to see this, enjoy this, be a part of something big, and winning, I feel better.’’
Yes, the AL Central champs managed to beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0, but the outcome of the game was secondary to the true drama that unfolded on the field.
Cabrera became just the 15th player to win baseball’s Triple Crown, joining an elite list that includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. Cabrera topped the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in the major leagues since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
‘‘It’s an unbelievable feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t describe the feeling right now.’’
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 Cabrera.
Cabrera went 0 for 2 against the Royals before leaving in the fourth inning to a standing ovation. He finished the regular season hitting four points higher than Angels rookie Mike Trout, his toughest competition for AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader in RBIs.
‘‘I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title,’’ Yastrzemski said in a statement, pointing out that his Red Sox reached the World Series when he won one of baseball’s most coveted titles.
The Tigers will have that chance when they open the postseason Saturday against Oakland.
‘‘It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it. I just had to focus, I had to go out there and do the job,’’ Cabrera said. ‘‘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.'’’
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 manager Jim Leyland to remove him with two outs 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, just as if he was celebrating at home.
‘‘I would say without question he’s enjoyed it. How could you not enjoy what he’s done if you’re a baseball player?’’ Leyland said. ‘‘I doubt very much, knowing him, that he necessarily enjoys all the extra attention, and all the extra conversations he’s had to have. It’s kind of out of his realm in personality, to be honest with you.’’
Cabrera’s pursuit of history occurred largely in the dark, though, 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.
‘‘The entire baseball world should be here right now,’’ said Verlander, the reigning AL MVP, who may soon watch that award get handed off to his teammate.
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 television cameras, answering countless questions about what makes him one of the game’s most complete hitters.
‘‘He’s not a talkative guy,’’ Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. ‘‘One, he doesn’t speak English that well, but two, he lets his ability carry through.’’
It takes a special breed to hit for average, power and in clutch situations, which is why there have been so few players to achieve baseball’s version of the Triple Crown.
Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez never accomplished it, failing to win the batting title, and countless other Hall of Fame players have fallen short of one of sport’s rarest feats.
Commissioner Bud Selig called it ‘‘a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history. Miguel has long been one of the most accomplished hitters in the game, and this recognition is one that he will be able to cherish for the rest of his career.’’Continued...