Summoned by his manager and replaced by a teammate at third base, Miguel Cabrera walked off the field and into the Detroit Tigers dugout, where he must have hugged every single person with two arms. The small crowd at Kauffman Stadium, which is usually enemy territory, gave him a warm and sustained ovation, and Cabrera walked to the top step to wave his cap to acknowledge them.
Everybody wanted to tell Cabrera how much they appreciated him becoming the first major leaguer since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown — the top spot in batting average, home runs and RBIs. It's happened only 16 times since 1878, and been done by only 14 players, a total that includes Cabrera.
Cabrera's moment of adulation came with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Ramon Santiago greeted him at his position. At that time, there still was a slim chance — very slim — that rookie Mike Trout of the Angels could surpass Cabrera's .330 batting average. Or that Curtis Granderson of the Yankees could jump over Cabrera's 44 homers. And the 139 RBIs? With Josh Hamilton of the Rangers already finished with 128 for the season, those were safe.
Modern thinking about statistics in recent seasons has questioned the value of RBIs, and on-base percentage has been preferred over batting average as a measuring stick for an even longer time. Home runs will always be home runs. Cabrera came in fourth in the AL in Wins Above Replacement, as measured by Baseball-Reference.com. It's the sixth time a Triple Crown winner didn't also lead the league in WAR. Frank Robinson of the Orioles in 1966, Chuck Klein of the Phillies and Napoleon Lajoie of the Athletics also have that distinction since 1901.
The Triple Crown remains a holy grail for hitters. It shouldn't necessarily be a rubber stamp for MVP, but it's still an incredibly rare and amazing accomplishment.