The crowns fit — all three of them.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera on Wednesday night secured the American League's home run, RBI and batting championships to became baseball's first Triple Crown winner of the 21st century — and the first since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Barry Bonds didn't do it. Neither did Hank Aaron, Willie Mays nor Babe Ruth.
But Cabrera did, becoming the 12th different man to accomplish the feat in the modern era of baseball, or since 1900.
Only three members of the fraternity are still alive: Cabrera, Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson (1966).
Cabrera was in the lineup for Wednesday's regular-season finale against the Royals, and he had two hitless at-bats before he was replaced in the bottom of the fourth inning.
He finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
The only realistic shot at spoiling his bid died when Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton — one homer back — went 1-for-5 with no homers in a 12-5 loss to the A's on Wednesday, and when Angels center fielder Mike Trout grounded out in his second at-bat to fall back to .323.
Trout would've needed to go at least 4-for-4, and hoped Cabrera went at least 0-for-4, to have a shot.
Instead, Trout went 2-for-3 and finished at .326.
Blue Jays outfielder Edwin Encarnacion was two homers back, and would've needed three to pass Cabrera — the Triple Crown still is awarded if you tie for the league lead in a category, as Yastrzemski did in matching Harmon Killebrew's 44 homers in 1967 — and Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson needed four homers in the span of two possible days.
But with the Yankees winning the AL East on Wednesday night, there will be no Game 163 (stats count in the one-game tiebreakers) with the Orioles.
Granderson, the former Tiger, did make it interesting, hitting two home runs in against the Red Sox before manager Joe Girardi, in a classy move, pulled him out of the rout. Granderson finished the season with a career-high 43.
Cabrera, 29, in his fifth season with the Tigers, already had led the league in the Triple Crown categories before, just not in the same season.
He led with 37 homers in 2008, his first year in Detroit; 126 RBIs in 2010; and a .344 average a year ago.
Now, Cabrera has put it all together in the same season — to seal an accomplishment more rare than even the perfect game. He's the Tigers second Triple Crown winner, joining the legendary Ty Cobb, who did it 1909, hitting .377 with 107 RBIs and a whopping nine home runs.
There are a variety of theories why the Triple Crown hasn't been accomplished in so long.
For one, there are many more players playing the game than in Yastrzemski's era. There were 20 major league teams in 1967, and there are 30 today.
Batters today also have to face a steady stream of pitchers approaching 100 miles per hour, plus we're in an era of middle and late relief. A batter typically only faces a starting pitcher two to three times a game; then, the batter must deal with a steady stream of specialists out of the bullpen. In Yastrzemski's day, starters were expected to be finishers, too.
Yastrzemski, for one, is a bit baffled that nobody had done it since him.
"I thought somebody would have won it a long time ago," Yastrzemski, 73, told reporters during a ceremony at Fenway Park a week ago. "And the surprising thing about it is, too, in the '50s when (Mickey) Mantle won it and Williams and Frank, you had a higher mound.
Triple Crown! Tigers' Miguel Cabrera officially tops in HRs, RBIs and average
Detroit News | Oct 4