A serious Triple Crown candidate is emerging in Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera's 18 homers and 53 runs batted in lead the American League and he ranks fourth in batting average (.339).
I know precisely what you're thinking. It's the second week of June.
How dare you utter "Triple Crown"!
Well, let's look at it this way—with each mention of the feat, writers offer a refresher course in history.
Who was the last player to earn the Triple Crown?
When was this feat last achieved?
Through print, we honor those who achieved this suddenly unachievable conquest with each mention. So if you believe it's premature to link Cabrera to this group of conquistadors, simply focus on the respect element.
Yaz's family certainly likes seeing their kinsman cited 27 years after his retirement.
One of baseball's smallest clubs, only 15 players are members in the Triple Crown Society. Not even Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez, today's top MLB players, have procured this distinction.
It has become virtually unattainable.
Back to Cabrera. Logic does not indicate it's too early to begin the discussion. Sure it's only June, but the first baseman's track record suggests he has a better chance than most.
Cabrera annually finishes near the top in dingers and RBI's, and has placed as high as runner-up in batting. In the past five years, the average for AL batting champs has been .346—Miggy lurks seven points away.
Eight months removed from swearing off alcohol, his approach is no longer influenced by hangovers or mental lapses resulting from late night partying. Cabrera is on pace to shatter previous career highs.
He's projected to wrap 208 hits, slug 51 homers, and plate 149 runners.
Health issues might also trip up less extraordinary players on the long-distance run to the Triple Crown.
But the 27-year-old has taken a few chapters out of the Iron Horse's book. Cabrera's never been placed on the disabled list in his eight-year career. In each of the past seven seasons, he has played at least 157 games.
Cabrera defines reliability.
And this isn't the first year he has flirted with the Triple Crown. He often places top-five—even top-three—in the required categories, and he's regularly mentioned in the same sentence as Prince Albert and A-Rod.
Now, if you believe this achievement may be surmountable, we must address the obstacles he will face en route.
Since no one has grabbed the distinction in 43 years, press covering the anomaly could grow overbearing. Interview-seekers would flood Cabrera's voicemail and inbox—and his name would be plastered on headlines across the US.
A pair of Twins—Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau—along with Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, won't willingly let Cabrera coast to a batting title.
Morneau is terrorizing the league, emerging as another Triple Crown contender. And Cano is blistering the ball at a .376 clip. Combined, usual suspects Mauer and Ichiro have won five batting titles since 2001.
This foursome will present Cabrera's biggest challenge.
Division rival Chicago will also attempt to stand in the way of history. Detroit plays the White Sox 14 more times in 2010, a team that gives Miggy fits. In 177 career at-bats against Ozzie Guillen's crew, he has hit .243.
This year, he's a measly 1-for-14. Normally allergic to extended slumps, the White Sox have neutralized his bat.
While the odds Cabrera will complete the feat are low, spectators outside of Detroit need to recognize history may be in the making.
Keep your eyes glued to Miguel Cabrera this summer.
One of the best pure hitters of this generation is having a career year.