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Cabrera's Triple Crown: Why MLB Missed a Huge Opportunity to Promote the Game

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Cabrera's Triple Crown: Why MLB Missed a Huge Opportunity to Promote the Game
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Major League Baseball's pennant races ended a week ago for me.

Sure, I know the American League East and West division winners had yet to be crowned that last week of September.

I know a handful of teams remained in the hunt for wild cards as well.

I know most fans of the Yankees, Orioles, A's, Rangers, Tigers and other teams on the bubble might disagree with me.

But, for me, those races disappeared into the background when—for the first time in decades—a MLB player entered the last week of the season with a legitimate shot at winning baseball's hallowed grail, the coveted Triple Crown.

When Miguel Cabrera held onto the American League lead in home runs on the last day of the season, edging out the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and a two-homer finale by the Yankees' Curtis Granderson, the debate over who the greatest hitter of this generation ended for me.

Another debate ended as well:

Any debate that MLB is the most poorly marketed professional sport in the world is over.

Major League Baseball had an incredible opportunity to reach out to new fans this last week of the season, to bring back so many who left after the lost season of 1994 or the Mitchell Report of 2007, to plant the seeds of baseball autumn magic in so many.

But Commissioner Bud Selig and the marketing "gurus" at MLB blew it.

They had a chance to overcome the ridiculous post-8 PM playoff starting times that discourage young kids from following the game.

They had a chance to temper the angst so many feel toward spoiled millionaires playing a child's game.

They had a chance to burn into your memory—you, me and anyone within earshot—the night that kid from Venezuela chased the ghosts of Carl Yastremski, Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby.

But, they blew it.

I scoured my DirecTV channels last night, looking for a channel, any channel, that might have carried the Tigers-Royals matchup. Nothing.

All week I looked for Cabrera or his manager Jim Leyland on mainstream TV—if this is not an accomplishment that transcends sports and the only-ESPN programming, what is? Nothing.

I sought out specials leading up to last night with nostalgic footage of the Splendid Splinter, Yaz and the rest, with guys like George Will, Ken Burns and Bill James waxing poetically on the magic of the rarity we were about to witness. Nothing.

Where was ESPN on this historic night? Where was Bud Selig and Major League Baseball?

Where were you?

Those three words, alone, have a place in baseball history.

Where were you...when Roger Maris hit No. 61? Where were you...when Rickey Henderson swiped his 119th stolen base? Where were you...when Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years?

For the record, Cabrera led the American League with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI.

I wasn't around when Maris edged Babe Ruth for the season home run record in 1961. But I have stories from my father, who lived in Manhattan at the time, that could serve as a prologue to a great book on that remarkable season.

I was 15 years old when Rickey Henderson lifted No. 119 over his head, declaring he was "the greatest" while the Brewers' Doc Medich looked on from the mound, knowing he had just become the answer to one of baseball's greatest trivia questions. Henderson stole 11 more that year to finish with 130, a number no one has approached since.

I will always remember where I was when Miguel Cabrera, who I first saw as a baby-faced poster boy for the expansion Florida Marlins, won the Triple Crown as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

I was home, staring at my TV in utter disbelief that Major League Baseball could ignore such a golden opportunity to make America's Pastime relevant beyond its core, devoted fans, a group that grows smaller and smaller each year.

Years from now, as the NFL and NBA continue their marketing genius, perhaps the next generation of MLB leaders will be asked—where were you when baseball missed out on its chance to hook another generation on the most beautiful game on the planet?

Where were you, indeed.

Lou Rom, who grew up on the Yankees of Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson, covers the NFL and whatever else gets under his skin for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at louromlive.

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