2012 Top 10 Stories: #1 – Miguel Cabrera’s Monster Season

How thick is the lens in a pair of Oakley sunglasses? I don’t own the instruments to determine the precise measurement but I think it’s safe to say thick enough to not only protect Miguel Cabrera‘s eye but sturdy enough to save his season, possibly his career, and almost assuredly make a Triple Crown season possible.

imagescabrerahead.jpgIn my lifetime, the Tigers haven’t had a player like Cabrera – or anyone close  for that matter. Even the best players I grew up watching Jason Thompson, Steve Kemp, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson and Cecil Fielder, rarely assembled a season in any one offensive category that compares to what Cabrera did in three of the biggest in 2012.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a rundown of the countless ways he demolished major-league pitching (courtesy of the Tigers postseason media notes). Cabrera:

  • Led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI to become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967. It marked the 14th time since 1900 a player captured the Triple Crown and Cabrera is the 12th player to accomplish the feat during that time. He’s the second Tigers player to do so, joining Ty Cobb (1909). He also joined Cobb by winning the A.L. batting title for the second straight season. The Peach did it in three straight seasons, from 1917-19.
  • Topped the American League with 377 total bases, 84 extra-base hits and a .606 slugging percentage, while he finished second with 109 runs scored and 205 hits, fourth with a .393 on-base percentage and seventh with 40 doubles.
  • Became the first Tigers player to connect for 40-or-more home runs in a season since Cecil Fielder hit 44 in 1991. It marks the 10th time in club history a Tigers player has hit 40-or-more home runs in a season and Cabrera is the sixth player in franchise history to do so. What’s more, he became the first player in Tigers history to belt 30-or-more home runs in five straight seasons.
  • Collected 139 RBI during the season, marking the fifth straight season he has posted 100-or-more RBI for the Tigers – he became only the third player in Tigers history to collect 100-or-more RBI in at least five straight seasons. Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann drove in 100-or-more runs in seven straight seasons (1923-29), and Charlie Gehringer did so in five straight seasons (1932-36).
  • Finished with 40 doubles and 44 home runs during the season, joining Hank Greenberg as the only two players in Tigers history to collect 40-or-more doubles and 40-or-more home runs during the same season. Greenberg accomplished the feat for Detroit in both 1937 and 1940.
  • Knocked 205 hits during the season, marking the first time he has finished with 200-or-more hits during a season – he became the 21st player in Tigers history to collect 200-or-more hits during a season.
  • Recorded 377 total bases during the season, marking the fifth straight season he has posted 300-or-more total bases for the Tigers – he became the first player in club history to post 300-or-more total bases in five consecutive seasons.

To the chagrin of many, this not only added up to a Triple Crown, it was the case for Cabrera winning the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award. His 2012 season might never be duplicated by a Tigers player – unless Cabrera himself matches it. For me, regardless of whether his award-winning season was universally acclaimed, it was thrilling to watch day in and day out and it is easily the top Tigers story in 2012.

And to think if not for a thin plastic lens we might not have witnessed it at all.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

My Trip to Cooperstown: Part 2

It took all of the second day in Cooperstown to make it through the balance of the Museum – and it did not disappoint. There’s so much I could write about but I think the photos I posted on TigersHistory.com tell the tale more vividly. Yet, one dimension in particular stands out and deserves a few words: the detail of the Museum.

Here I am in the exhibit recognizing the Tigers clubs from the 1980s. Though he’s not represented in the Hall of Fame, I was delighted to see my man Jack Morris in the Museum. Same for Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and the rest of the ’84 champs.

The Museum is rooted in the minutiae of baseball and the memories these otherwise mundane objects evoke. You’d expect to see artifacts from Hank Aaron’s chase for the Babe, Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters and Rickey Henderson’s stolen base exploits. But it’s the other stuff that held me rapt. For example:

  • The cornerstone from Ebbets Field
  • The wall panel from Tiger Stadium’s deepest reaches – the 440-foot mark
  • A deep-blue leather jacket from the Philadelphia Athletics
  • The rotating thingy that sat atop the centerfield scoreboard at old Comiskey Park
  • A scorebook from a Tigers/Indians game from the early 1970s
  • The shoes worn by Hall of Fame National League umpire Doug Harvey in his final game in 1992

And so much more. Of course, there was lot of Tigers miscellany, some curious of not outright dubious.

For example, in the Tigers locker, part of the Today’s Game exhibit, you’ll find the hat worn by Luis Pujols when he managed against the Royals’ Tony Pena in June 2002. It marked the first time managers from the Dominican Republic faced each other. The fact someone has that on their radar and thinks to make contact ahead of time with the Royals and Tigers is astounding and impressive.

Also in the Museum is the hat worn by Octavio Dotel on April 7 when he appeared in a game for his record-setting 13th different club.

In a way it’s cool that these items are in Cooperstown, but these two names representing the Tigers with Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Cochrane, George
Kell
and Al Kaline? Kind of a joke, I thought. But the more I considered it, the more I appreciated that the seemingly minor and mostly forgotten stories of people like Pujols and Dotel shape the narrative and history of baseball.

I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

As we departed for the grueling drive back to Detroit I wondered when I’d get back to Cooperstown. Chances are it won’t be soon.

Until that time, I’ll be keeping a more watchful eye on the historical aspects as they happen and cherish a trip of a lifetime with my Dad, brother and brothers in law.

A Look at Tigers’ Big Comebacks

From Elias Sports Bureau:

The White Sox led the Tigers, 8-1, in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game before Detroit came back to win, 9-8. It was the second-largest comeback win that the Tigers have ever had at Comerica Park; on Sept. 27, 2003, they rallied from eight runs down to defeat the Twins, 9-8, thereby avoiding their 120th loss of that season (a total that would have tied the modern major-league record set by the 1962 Mets). It was the 29th time in team history – an American League-record total – that the Tigers have won a game after trailing by at least seven runs – a trait that started with the team’s very first game after the American League attained major-league status in 1901. In that game, played on April 25 of that year, the Tigers trailed the Milwaukee Brewers, 13-4, heading to the bottom of the ninth; but aided by an overflow crowd that encroached on the playing field to the consternation of the Milwaukee outfielders, the Tigers scored 10 runs in the last of the ninth to win, 14-13. (The Milwaukee team moved to St. Louis, becoming the Browns, the following year; the franchise then re-located to Baltimore, becoming the Orioles, in 1954.) It was against the White Sox on June 18, 1911 that the Tigers set the major-league record for the largest deficit overcome to win a game. The Sox led, 13-1, in the fifth inning, but the Tigers chipped away and won it, 16-15, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth, with Ty Cobb himself scoring the winning run. (Two other major-league teams – the Athletics in 1925 and the Indians in 2001 – have since won games after having trailed by 12 runs, but the Tigers’ record has never been bettered.)

Avila at Third? Not All That Uncommon in Tigers History

Tonight Alex Avila is the Tigers’ starting third baseman in the opener of a three-game series in Denver against the Rockies.

Avila’s never played third in the majors but he’s not the first Tigers player to be pressed into action there. Did you know that Al Kaline appeared in two games at third during his career?

In 1961, he played a full nine innings at third, fielding a pair of chances cleanly, with a putout and an assist. Four years later he played 5.1 innings of a game with three chances, two putouts and an assist.

Johnny Wockenfuss, who played mostly at first, catcher and in the outfield, became even more of a utility man for Sparky Anderson when he played … parts of two games – all of 2.1 innings – at third base but never saw any action.

Like Kaline, in 1965 Willie Horton played third but outlasted him be two-thirds of an inning. In one game he played six innings, fielded two chances and earned an assist on both.

Others taking a turn at the hot corner include:

  • Mickey Stanley: 18 games over two seasons (1975 and ’76), 61 chances, 13 putouts, 46 assists and two errors
  • Alan Trammell: 43 games in two seasons (1993, ’96), 100 chances, 26 putouts, 69 assists, five errors
  • Ty Cobb: 1 game in 1918, two chances, with an assist and a putout.
  • Charlie Gehringer: 6 error-free games (and 26 chances) in 1926 for The Mechanical Man

I’m looking forward to this experiment. Having Avila’s bat in the lineup is huge and having him at third, well, can’t be any worse than Ryan Raburn.

What do you think?