Every legendary career has its defining moment. It happens when a star player transforms from an All-Star to a household name.
It doesn’t happen very often, but in Detroit, we are seeing it for the second season in a row.
The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is closing in on the rare Triple Crown of being the season leader in home runs, RBIs and batting average — something only 13 players have ever accomplished, the last time coming in 1967.
The Detroit third baseman has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in the game for nearly a decade, but this season might be Cabrera’s lasting legacy. If he can win the Triple Crown, it will be something baseball will remember forever.
Tigers fans know about historic performances. It happened in Detroit last year when Justin Verlander had the most dominating pitching performance in a quarter century, winning pitching’s Triple Crown with 24 wins, 250 strikeouts and a 2.40 earned run average.
Verlander led the Tigers to the postseason and snagged American League Cy Young and MVP honors. It was his defining moment, as he is just the second player (Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe) to win Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP awards in their career.
This year, it is Cabrera’s turn for the MVP, having led the Tigers to the playoffs.
In his 10th season, he is having his finest, leading the league in hitting (.328), home runs (44) and RBIs (137) after Monday, all while handling a switch in position from first base to third.
Cabrera already has led the league in each of the Triple Crown categories, but each has come in a different season. Last year, he won the batting title at .344.
If Cabrera hangs on to win the batting title, he will be the only player in baseball history not named Joe DiMaggio (1939-40) or Ted Williams (1941-42) to win back-to-back batting titles, while hitting 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs both seasons.
That is about the most elite company anyone can ask for.
Even more impressive is the consistency Cabrera has shown in the past decade. In nine full seasons, he has driven in 100 runs every year, batted .300 seven of them (the other two were in the .290s), hit 30 or more home runs seven times and scored 100 six times.
Only legends DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Thomas and Albert Pujols have been that dominant and that consistent for a decade as right-handed hitters.
Each player in that group has won multiple MVP awards, and Cabrera should be collecting his first this year, even though Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout has posted a career-defining season in his own right as a rookie with 30 homers and 40 steals.
The way Cabrera is hitting — and carrying the Tigers — the MVP won’t be his last.
Page 2 of 2 - Cabrera has plenty of heroics ahead, but if he wins the Triple Crown, it will be his defining individual career achievement.
Twenty years or so from now, when Cabrera is giving his Hall of Fame induction speech in Cooperstown, he will have a lot to say about his defining moment.
We will all remember it — his Triple Crown chase.
Contact Dan D’Addona at firstname.lastname@example.org or (616) 546-4276. Follow him on Facebook at Holland Sentinel Sports and on Twitter @DanDAddona.