Miguel Cabrera is the first player in 45 years to enter the final day of the regular season leading his league in all three Triple Crown categories.
But with the Detroit Tigers looking ahead to Game 1 of their American League Division Series on Saturday, manager Jim Leyland may decide to sit his star third baseman for tonight’s finale in Kansas City.
Sit a guy who has a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski? Seriously?
“I’m going to think about it tonight,” Leyland said after Detroit’s 4-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday night. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet. But I’m sure I’ll be criticized, whatever it is.”
Thanks to a furious final 48 hours that included hits in six consecutive at-bats Monday and Tuesday, Cabrera’s .331 average should be enough to take the batting title, and no one is going to catch his 139 RBIs (Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton is second with 128). But Cabrera leads Hamilton by a single home run with 44, and Toronto slugger Edwin Encarnacion is only two behind – so both could potentially tie, or even pass Cabrera today.
Conveniently for Leyland, the Rangers’ regular season finale is a matinée in Oakland, so he’ll know if Hamilton goes deep before the 8:10 p.m. first pitch in Kansas City. Encarnacion’s Blue Jays don’t take the field until 7:07 p.m. in Toronto.
Leyland could also employ the pull-me-if-I-get-a-hit strategy Jose Reyes last season when he claimed the NL batting title. If Cabrera knocked one out in his first at-bat, Leyland could give him the rest of the night off.
But Detroit’s skipper is also weighing Cabrera’s workload as he considers giving the All-Star an extra day before the postseason. Cabrera has played in 160 of Detroit’s 161 games this season. Even with seven games as the DH, that’s a lot of action.
“What’s the difference what I do? Here’s certainly not backing into anything. Six-for-six is pretty good,” Leyland said, referring to Cabrera’s two-game tear. “Enough is enough. What do you want him to do? In my opinion, if somebody tries to create a flaw in this, it’s not there.”
Whether Cabrera plays or sits, his 2012 season is one for the ages – and despite Mike Trout’s unprecedented rookie campaign, a Triple Crown and a division title should be enough to land Cabrera the AL MVP. To those who might disagree, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder reiterated the magnitude of Cabrera’s impending achievement on Tuesday.
“Big isn’t the word for it,” Fielder said (via the Detroit Free Press). “We’re witnessing one of the greatest offensive performances ever in baseball history.”
If you were Leyland, what would you do? Start Cabrera and pull him once the Triple Crown is secure? Sit him so he’s fresh for the playoffs?
In a Detroit Free Press poll, 75 percent of the 2,400 voters said the Tigers should “start him, then take him out at some point” while only 10 percent believe Leyland should sit Cabrera.
What’s your take?