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Antiquated numbers like batting average and RBI have given way to a new era of advanced statistics, but does that make the Triple Crown any less impressive? Or can we still recognize its forgotten greatness?
Miguel Cabrera has won the Triple Crown, having led the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI. It used to happen on the regular, see. 1933, 1934, 1942, 1947, 1956, 1966, 1967. And then someone pulled the lamp cord and we didn't see it for another 45 years.
Between then and now, the pitcher's mound has been lowered, the ranks of the players were staggered by a cocaine epidemic, the owners colluded, Montreal found and lost a team, a World Series was canceled, and PEDs were given a damn about. Baseball is a game of records, and most of the holy records have been ripped down: the single-season and career home run marks, the consecutive-games record, the notion that a 3-0 playoff series deficit couldn't be overcome.
The Triple Crown was a tooth that the last few decades of baseball couldn't quite knock out. Over the last 20 years we've seen players that probably won Triple Crowns in a dozen parallel universes and just happened to run into one another in ours. And that was the problem. Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and a few others could have won this …
… well, this sun-stained, brass antique of a title. Batting average ain't OPS. RBI are an unreliable predictor of a hitter's actual value. The revolution of advanced statistics have lent us better things to talk about, and in a more intelligent way. Lately, baseball has thoughtfully laid these lovely little boxes and envelopes full of gift cards under the Christmas tree. Now, all of a sudden, we have this giant box bindled together with actual ribbon, tied with a flowery bow that wasn't even pasted on top.
Um, thanks, Grandpa.
We can't set this Triple Crown on the mantel, it's too big and heavy and wide. It'll just fall over. God knows where we're going to put it.
Our advanced statistical sensibilities tell us we're right not to explode over Cabrera's achievement. Mike Trout, at age 20, worked wonders this season, and we should look at his 2012 statistics and stare at them and stare at them until we truly appreciate what he did. That's the big present. It's the Lego Monorail. We can start building that a little later.
Right now, Grandpa's in the kitchen, wrinkled fingers around a mug of coffee, making conversation with your father because he understands you even less. Go in there. Ask him about what Miguel Cabrera has done here. This Triple Crown is a thing from another time. Perhaps you'll humor him for a bit and try to convince yourself that you think it matters.
Or perhaps you'll recognize our old standard of wonder when it peeks at you. Miguel Cabrera hit the shit out of that baseball, and an old and hobbled god is still a god.