It's been a crazy final day of the 2012 MLB regular season. We've got A's winning divisions, O's falling back into Wild Cards, and the other 24 letters of the alphabet not really caring about baseball. But on top of the great team drama, we get something on the individual scale we haven't seen in 45 years — an offensive Triple Crown winner.
Not since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 has a player in either league led all others in batting average, home runs, and RBI at season's end. Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012, and if all you offense romanticists still aren't satisfied, he might not even win MVP. So let's not hand this league over to the pitchers just yet.
Alas, tonight isn't about Mike Trout. Well, it sort of is — he batted 2 for 3 and was Miggy's closest foe in the batting average category. But it's mostly about Cabrera, whose .330 average will edge Trout, and his 44 home runs and 139 RBI clip runner-up Josh Hamilton.
The fact of the matter is: This is an extremely difficult milestone to achieve. It's "only" been 45 years since someone in the AL has done it, but nobody in the Senior Circuit has accomplished the feat since Joe Medwick in 1937 — a whopping 75 years.
The Triple Crown became something of a lost art because power hitters, the guys who put up gaudy home run and RBI numbers, stopped hitting for contact. Something that rang especially true in the steroid era, the "swing for the fences" mantra is what guys with any semblance of power believed they were supposed to do, exclusively. It takes a well-rounded, disciplined ballplayer, yet one still with All-MLB strength, to lead the league in the power categories as well as average.
After the steroid era, the offensive game became uber-compartmentalized. It hasn't been about finding that five-tool player, but about ensuring you have the aggregate of all five-tools somewhere in your lineup and that your pitching is stellar enough to hold down the fort. The 2011 Cardinals followed that business model, as did the 2010 Giants and it got both of them a World Series title.
Hitting for power, with contact, is a lost art. But it has been rekindled by your (unofficial) AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.