Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has won the American League's Triple Crown, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since 1967.
Cabrera finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. He led the league in each of those categories.
Fans were on the edge of their seats all night as Cabrera had to hold off three other players en route to accomplishing the feat.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout was challenging Cabrera for the batting crown, but his 2-3 day in the Angels 12-0 loss to the Mariners wasn't enough to catch Cabrera. He finished the season batting .326.
Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton entered the day one home run behind Cabrera, but he did not homer in Texas' 12-5 loss to Oakland. He finished the season with 43 home runs.
The most interesting challenge came from Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who entered the day with 41 home runs. Granderson homered twice in the Yankees game against Boston before being pulled in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Yankees leading 14-2.
Cabrera was 0-2 in the Tigers game against Kansas City before being pulled in the fourth inning to a standing ovation from the fans at Kauffman Stadium.
He's the first player in Major League Baseball to win the triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski did so for the Boston Red Sox in 1967.
After Cabrera joined him in the history books, Yastrzemski said, "I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on winning the Triple Crown. I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title. I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox Impossible Dream Team. I am sure Frank Robinson joins me in commending Miguel in reaching this significant milestone in his career."
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said, "It is an honor to congratulate Miguel Cabrera on earning the Triple Crown, a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of Baseball history. Miguel has long been one of the most accomplished hitters in the game, and this recognition is one that he will be able to cherish for the rest of his career in baseball and beyond. As the Tigers prepare for the Postseason, we have a global stage to witness Miguel's talent, which will go down as one of the hallmarks of Major League Baseball's extraordinary 2012 regular season."
Earlier in the day, Cabrera's teammate Justin Verlander was disappointed the chase for the triple crown hadn't attracted more national attention.
"The entire baseball world should be here right now," said Justin Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. "We've got, sorry to say, the regular guys.
"I think he's been relatively under the radar for what he's done, for what he's doing. It hasn't happened in 40-some years," Verlander continued, his voice rising. "It kind of annoys me. I don't know about anybody else. I don't know about him. It probably doesn't annoy him."
It certainly doesn't annoy Cabrera, who will politely answer just about any question posed to him, but would just as soon spend his time hanging out with his buddies.
The perfect example came Monday night, shortly after Cabrera had four hits and a home run in a 6-3 victory over the Royals that clinched the AL Central. He was asked about contributing so much to another division title, and Cabrera deflected the attention back on his teammates.
"We got it done with the first one," he said quietly. "That was our goal."
Rather than sit on the bench and watch things play out — by doing so, likely locking up the batting title — Cabrera told manager Jim Leyland that he wanted to play. And he didn't want to be the designated hitter, either. He wanted to play just as he has all season.
"It's a big thing," Leyland said, "and it should be a big thing, and it really hasn't gotten away from what we're trying to accomplish, and now you feel more at ease talking about it."
There are plenty of other people willing to contribute to the conversation, even if Leyland and Verlander believe there should be more. Old-timers who never thought they'd see another Triple Crown winner have piped in, as have those who remain close to the game.
"It's just extremely difficult to do, to be the complete hitter, to be a run-producer in terms of RBIs, to be a power hitter in terms of home runs, and then lead the league in average," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I don't know when the next time is we'll see it happen."
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski called Cabrera a "once-in-a-lifetime player," and recalled a conversation he had before Monday night's game, when the seven-time All-Star admitted "the Triple Crown is important, but it's not the most important thing."
Cabrera wanted to win a championship, something Detroit has the chance to chase.
The same can't be said of Trout, his primary competition for AL MVP. Los Angeles was knocked out of playoff contention Monday night when Oakland beat Texas 4-3.
The MVP debate has
certainly slowly started to boil.
On one hand, Cabrera has joined a club that counts just 13 members, among them Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. He's dominated the statistical categories favored by traditionalists, the ones that count toward the Triple Crown.
On the other hand, Trout is being championed by new-school baseball thought, number crunchers who rely on more obscure measures such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a figure derived from several other statistics designed to judge a player's overall contribution to a team.
"For whatever reason and I don't understand it, this WAR and sabermetric stuff seems to not focus much on RBIs. That blows my mind," said Leyland, most certainly part of the old guard.
"That's why (Cabrera) is the MVP. He plates the runners. He scores them. That's what the game's about, score some runs. You can't win unless you score some runs. Here's a guy who knocks them in, one right after another."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report