Rare Air for Cabrera

By Craig Muder

The magic of the annual Hall of Fame election process is that there is no “automatic in.”

No season statistic, no career achievement, no postseason marvel qualifies a candidate for induction. It is a body of work – compiled over time – which voters must subjectively consider.

And yet, Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 season comes as close as it gets to a ticket to Cooperstown.

Cabrera revived a dinosaur Wednesday, wrapping up something many thought might never be repeated: The batting Triple Crown. For the first time since Carl Yastrzemski’s legendary 1967 season, an MLB hitter led his league in batting average, home runs and RBI in the same year.

Since the dawn of big league baseball in the 1870s until this season, 13 men had produced 15 Triple Crowns – with Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams achieving the milestone twice each. Of those 15 seasons, 13 came in baseball’s modern era – when the American League and National League were both operating as major leagues starting in 1901.

The 11 authors of those 13 seasons are each enshrined in Cooperstown:

Nap Lajoie 1901 AL Triple Crown 1937 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ty Cobb 1909 AL Triple Crown 1936 Elected to Hall of Fame
Rogers Hornsby 1922 NL Triple Crown 1942 Elected to Hall of Fame
Rogers Hornsby 1925 NL Triple Crown 1942 Elected to Hall of Fame
Jimmie Foxx 1933 AL Triple Crown 1951 Elected to Hall of Fame
Chuck Klein 1933 NL Triple Crown 1980 Elected to Hall of Fame
Lou Gehrig 1934 AL Triple Crown 1939 Elected to Hall of Fame
Joe Medwick 1937 NL Triple Crown 1968 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ted Williams 1942 AL Triple Crown 1966 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ted Williams 1947 AL Triple Crown 1966 Elected to Hall of Fame
Mickey Mantle 1956 AL Triple Crown 1974 Elected to Hall of Fame
Frank Robinson 1966 AL Triple Crown 1982 Elected to Hall of Fame
Carl Yastrzemski 1967 AL Triple Crown 1989 Elected to Hall of Fame

The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won the 2012 AL batting Triple Crown, the first time in 45 years. (NBHOF Library)

Cabrera flew under the radar for most of the 2012 season, mostly avoiding the pressure build-up that comes with any major achievement. But from this day forward, Cabrera will be on everyone’s radar.

After 10 big league seasons – including his rookie year of 2003 when he appeared in 87 games after his mid-season call-up from the minors to help the Marlins win their second World Series title – Cabrera has 321 home runs, 1,123 RBI and a .318 batting average. He has driven in at least 100 runs in nine seasons and scored better than 100 runs six times.

Only two other players in the game’s history have put together those kind of numbers in the first 10 seasons of their career: Ted Williams and Albert Pujols. And only Williams also had a Triple Crown on his resume.

The Hall of Fame archive contains several artifacts from Triple Crown seasons, including the Triple Crown Awards won by Yastrzemski and Robinson and a bat used by Mantle during the 1956 season. They will all be preserved forever in Cooperstown.

Twelve years ago, Cooperstown-area baseball fans had the chance to watch Cabrera as he played eight games with the Class A Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League – a team located about 45 minutes up the road from baseball’s Mecca that became the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2002.

A decade or so from now, Cabrera is on track return to Central New York – this time as a Hall of Famer.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

1 Comment

Hello Craig, I agree that Cabrera is on his way to the Hof, I believe that , to his benefit , he did not get a lot of attenion because of who he is. He is not flashy, he doesn’t seem to seek out the limelight. If it was A-rod,Jeter, or Albert Pujols going for the triple crown then they would have covered it more intently.

Towards the end of the season, a caller to WEEI in Boston said that he didn’t want Cabrera to win the triple crown because he didn’t want them to take it away from Yaz…..Thats right,…he didn’t want them to take it away from Yaz,.Cabrera didn’t get the attenion because, guys like this one , don’t understand what the triple crown is. Having Fielder batting behind him sure did help, but we may not see that again for a long time.

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