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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Miggy closing in on triple crown territory

DETROIT — He’s been hearing the “M-V-P” chants from fans at home, and even some on the road.

Could Miguel Cabrera start hearing a new chant? “Tri-ple-Crown.”

Or maybe “Carl-Yas-Trzemski.”

“Who?” Cabrera jokingly asked Tuesday night.

Carl Yastrzemski, Miggy. The last guy to win a triple crown? What do you know about him?

“Oh, a lot,” Miggy said with a laugh, after making sure everyone would be reading that name a lot the final two weeks of the regular season.

With his two-homer, six-RBI night on Tuesday, establishing new career highs in both categories, the Tigers slugger certainly made the possibility that much stronger that he could be the first since Boston’s Yastrzemski in 1967 to claim the rare honor.

Cabrera came into Wednesday’s games with possession of the lead in two of the three triple crown categories — batting average (.333) and RBI (129) — and just two off the pace in the third, home runs (40).

Has he got it in him?

“He better,” joked former teammate Brandon Inge, now with the visiting Oakland Athletics, who were at Comerica for a three-game series. “How hard is it? All he’s gotta do is hit home runs. He’s got everything else.”

And he does.

At the moment.

Cabrera finished Tuesday night with a six-point lead over his primary MVP competition, LA’s Mike Trout (.327), in batting average.

He had a six-RBI lead over Texas’ Josh Hamilton, the player behind whom Cabrera finished second in the 2010 MVP balloting.

And Hamilton’s lead in the home run department has shrunk considerably with Miggy’s eight homers in September, after two Tuesday, and another Wednesday.

“It’s not easy. There’s a lot of competition, a lot of good guys. .... It’s a hard thing to, you know? You gotta get lucky. And hopefully we get lucky and beat some more good teams,” said Cabrera, who admitted the MVP chants make him feel good, but would still rather talk about team success, rather than individual numbers.

“If you do it, it’s like, ‘Wow,’ ” Cabrera said. “In those categories — average, RBI and home run — it’s amazing, because (when you try to hit for) average (it brings) down your home runs. You want to put the ball in play. You want to make something happen. You want walks, too. To get that together is very impressive.”

Since joining the Tigers in 1008, he’s led the American League in each of the triple crown categories — home runs (37) in 2008, RBI (126) in 2010 and batting average (.344) last season — but never more than one in a season.

“It is what it is with Cabrera. You guy have all seen him. There’s no sense in really asking any questions about him because you guys all have first-hand information on him. You’ve watched this kid play for several years now so you all know how good he is. I don’t know what to say. I’m not avoiding it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I don’t know what to tell you, you guys all watch him so you know how good he is. It’s remarkable really. I think the fact that it’s been so long since it’s been done tells you how unbelievably hard it would be to do. But other than that, I don’t really have much information for you.”


How have his home run numbers climbed so precipitously, though?

He’s hit 30 or more in eight of his 10 big-league seasons, but never more than 38. Last year, he hit 30. Now he’s got 40.

Easy answer.

“Prince behind me. I see more good pitches. Last year, I think I see one, two pitches good pitches in at-bat, right now I see a lot,” Cabrera said.

“They be aggressive with me, and I’m an aggressive hitter. It doesn’t have to be in the middle of the plate to swing the bat. If it is something close, I’m going to be aggressive and swing, put my best swing on it.”

If Cabrera becomes the first player in 45 seasons to win the triple crown, how can he NOT win the MVP? [Here are how some of his teammates feel about it]

That debate has become more and more pronounced in recent days, what with Trout’s numbers coming back to earth (he’s hit just .274 in September, compared to .373 for Cabrera).

“Personally, yeah, I think so. Nothing against Trout. Trout’s unbelievable, he really is. I like him as a player, I love the way he does things, but nobody makes an impact on a ballclub the way Miguel Cabrera does,” said Inge, stunned when a reporter asked him to elaborate, with a ‘how so?’

“You don’t have a notepad long enough to write down all the things. Everything. Everything. Everything offensively.”

Will that be enough to offset Trout’s perceived advantage in defensive metrics?

Yes, Inge said.

“I don’t care. I don’t care. You’re never going to convince me otherwise. And nothing against Trout. I LOVE the type of ballplayer that he is, I really do. I like everything he does. But no one impacts a game like Miguel Cabrera does,” the longtime Tiger said.

“(Tuesday) night, bases are loaded, and I’m sitting here going, ‘This is not good.’ And sure enough, ‘Bam,’ grand slam. I just knew it. It’s just one of those things.

“Maybe Trout, he could do that also, but I’m confident — I knew that guy was going to come through.”


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