Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and the X-Factor in Race for the Triple Crown

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Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and the X-Factor in Race for the Triple Crown
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Every few years before the All-Star break, a slugger has a big first half and triple crown talk gives way. By August, a triple crown seems like a distant memory. The hopeful who was likely leading one or two of the three categories in June, has either slumped, been pitched around, or just simply not had the luck required to accomplish this amazing feat.

This season that was Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, who is currently hitting .342 with 33 home runs and a major league leading 107 RBI’s, hasn’t slowed down one bit since his hot start. He is still being pitched to, still hitting for average, and still cranking the long ball that has allowed him to drive in over 100 runs before the month of September. Unfortunately for Cabrera, Toronto RF Jose Bautista has had a career year and continues to belt bombs at an alarming rate with a major league leading 42 dingers.

That’s the luck part of the equation. If Cabrera played in the National League, he would have a commanding lead in RBI’s, batting average, and would be just three jacks shy of Albert Pujols in the home run category.

Luckily for Pujols, his St. Louis Cardinals are in the NL and he doesn’t have to contend with a Bautista a Cabrera, or even a Josh Hamilton for the league lead in any such category. Enter Joey Votto.

Votto, who is currently battling the Machine for league MVP and NL Central supremacy, has become a household name in 2010 with his production at the plate. Votto is currently second in the NL in all three triple crown categories and is in striking distance of first in each one. Votto’s .325 average, 32 jacks, and 93 RBI’s are currently .001 behind the NL leader in batting and three dingers and two RBI’s behind Pujols in homers and RBI’s.

For the first time in recent memory, September rolls around with not one, but two legitimate contenders for the first triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1973 and the first NL triple crown winner since Joe Medwick accomplished the trifecta in 1937.

One would be likely to assume that if the triple crown is not accomplished in 2010, it will be simply because one beat out the other in the final category lacking. While this may end up being the case, another player in the National League has a say so in the race for baseball immortality. Not only does this player have a say so, he may actually acquire the whole triple crown for himself.

Who is this third contender in the race for the great triple crown you ask? Say hello to 24-year-old Carlos Gonzalez. In his first full season in the big time, Gonzalez quietly leads the NL in batting with a .326 average while belting 29 home runs and driving in 90 RBI’s for a Rockies club that is battling for the NL Wild Card.

While Cards and Reds fans are fearing that the youngster will win the batting title and prevent their hero from the triple crown, don’t count this kid out of winning the triple crown all on his own. Five RBI’s behind Pujols for the league lead and six behind Albert in homers, it isn’t inconceivable that Gonzalez has a power surge in September and gives both Votto and Pujols a serious run for their money.

With both the Cards and the Reds in a pennant race, Votto and Pujols could see less and less pitches as the season winds down leaving the door wide open for Gonzalez. While six home runs is still a sizable lead for Pujols over Gonzalez in the bombs department, Gonzalez still has 17 games remaining at the launching pad they call Coors Field.

Both Gonzalez and Pujols had their best months of the season in August setting up for a thrilling September. During the month of August, Pujols blasted 12 homers, batted .412, and drove in 24 runs. Gonzalez was not far off pace, leaving the yard nine times while batting .378 and also driving in 24 runs. Votto had a fabulous month of August as well batting .322 with 21 runs driven in, but fell off the home run pace of Pujols sending just five balls out of the park. If Pujols and Gonzalez have the type of month in September that they did in August, baseball could have an extremely intriguing final series as the Rockies visit the Cardinals in the final week of the season.

Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, and Carlos Gonzalez are in a tight race heading into the last month of the season. The Machine, the Canadian, and the youngster are all chasing a feat that hasn’t been achieved in their league in 73 years and in all honesty likely won’t be done this season. But if just one of these players can stay hot, healthy, and acquire the right amount of luck, we could maybe, just maybe, see an epic feat that many of us have never witnessed in our lifetime.

-scf

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