Miguel Cabrera won the 17th Triple Crown in major league history and the first in 45 seasons. Cabrera’s amazing season seemed to go almost unnoticed until the end of September. The media focused on other stories while the Tiger slugger hit away. In the end, Cabrera had one of baseball’s all-time great seasons as he led the Tigers to the postseason. Despite this, the Most Valuable Player balloting led to controversy as some believed Anaheim’s Mike Trout should have won the award.
The Detroit Tigers signed first baseman Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 off season. The acquisition forced incumbent first baseman Miguel Cabrera to move across the diamond to third base. Cabrera had not played third regularly since 2007. As a result, it was as though Cabrera was learning a new position.
Despite the positional switch, Cabrera began 2012 on fire. He was named AL Player of the Week for April 4-8. During the stretch, Cabrera went 5-for-11 with eight RBI. At the end of April, the Tiger tallied his 1000th RBI becoming the fourth player to do so before his 30th birthday. Only Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, and Albert Pujols have achieved this.
Milestones continued for Cabrera in 2012. In July, he slammed his 300th career home run to become the second Venezuelan with 300 big league long balls. In August, the slugger became the first Tiger to have five consecutive 30-home run seasons passing Hank Greenberg and Cecil Fielder. For August, Cabrera batted .357 with eight home runs, and 24 RBI to win the AL Player of the Month. He also won the award in July 2008. He joined Alan Trammell as the only Tigers to win the award twice.
People began noticing Cabrera in September. The Tigers appeared out of the divisional race when they fell three games behind the White Sox with 15 to play. Despite this, they assumed first place with seven to play while Cabrera battled history. No one had won the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in home runs, RBI, and batting average in 1967. When the dust settled, the Tigers won the AL Central title and Cabrera the Triple Crown.
Cabrera won his second consecutive batting title with a .330 average. He became the first Tiger since Ty Cobb to win back-to-back batting titles. He also won his second home run crown (44), and second RBI title (139). Additionally, the third baseman led the AL in slugging (.606), OPS (.999), and total bases (377). He scored 109 runs and had his first 200 hit season.
2012 marked the 17th Triple Crown in major league history, 14th of the modern era, and first of the 21st century. Cabrera became the first Latin player and first third baseman to win the Triple Crown. He was the second Tiger behind Ty Cobb in 1909. His peers named him player of the year as did the Sporting News. The baseball writers followed suit with the MVP award.
The MVP balloting proved controversial. Anaheim Angel wonder rookie Mike Trout won over some within the sabermetric community. They proved openly hostile to Cabrera. Trout supporters believed the rookie’s base running and defensive abilities far outweighed Cabrera’s bat. Many pointed to the heavily flawed WAR statistic, other newer statistical categories in support, and denigrated Cabrera’s efforts during Detroit’s pennant run. They were indignant with Cabrera’s MVP Award. They were also wrong.
Miguel Cabrera had one of Detroit’s greatest seasons of all time in any sport. His 2012 season ranks alongside Barry Sanders 2000 yard season, Steve Yzerman’s or Nick Lidstrom’s finest campaigns, or a myriad of Ty Cobb efforts. It was the greatest Tiger season since World War II and the finest for a Detroit third baseman. Despite the MVP vote controversy, Cabrera rightfully won the MVP.