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45 long years after Carl Yastrzemski won baseball’s Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera just clinched the 16th such award in history.
Cabrera finished the season with 44 home runs, 139 RBIs, and a .330 batting average. Numbers worthy of MVP consideration, without a doubt. Consideration, you ask? Yes.
Why would a Triple Crown winner only be considered for the league’s MVP award? Why would Mike Trout be getting more MVP buzz than Cabrera?
Because Cabrera’s historic season was just that: historic. It belonged to a time that has long passed us by.
Once upon a time, home runs, RBIs, and batting average were the pinnacle of baseball statistics. Once upon a time, advanced statistical metrics like WAR didn’t exist. An emphasis on on-base percentage (OBP) was 30 years into the future. What once were the standard measurements of a great season are now complements to more meaningful stats that better indicate winning.
Yastrzemski’s stats have been glorified over the past four and a half decades due to the elusive nature of leading the league in all three categories. But elusive and rare do not equal impressive. Why are those categories the ones that constitute the Crown? Why are those the statistics on which we put the most weight?
And perhaps more importantly: because Cabrera led the league in those offensive categories, what does that say about the rest of the league?
In 1999, Manny Ramirez hit 44 home runs, drove in 165 runs, and hit .333. In all, he had a better season than Cabrera, but didn’t win the Triple Crown. To put a single season on a pedestal without any historical context is unfair to great seasons past, and is unfair to Cabrera, for his Triple Crown season is more about a statistical anomaly than great hitting.
As a matter of fact, this season isn’t even Cabrera’s best to date. In 2010 he hit 38 home runs, drove in 126 runs, and batted .328. How is that better? He also posted career highs (to date) in OBP (.420), slugging (.622) and OPS (1.042).
Cabrera should, instead of feeling proud, feel lucky. A season like this had in any other year is just another season. When Mike Trout is named MVP, we’ll all understand why.