Can a horse now step up? While Thoroughbred racing has not seen a Triple Crown since 1978, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won baseball's version of the mythic prize. Cabrera finished the regular season atop the American League in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139), the first time a hitter led in all three categories since Carl Yastrzemski did it for the Boston Red Sox in 1967. Cabrera's past struggles with alcohol and Detroit's winning season--the Tigers finished first in the American League Central--made this historic feat even sweeter.
But it doesn't come without some controversy. Cabrera's triple crown has touched off an intriguing ideological debate that pits the stewards of baseball tradition against the scholars of sabermetrics--otherwise known as the stat geeks. To hardcore number crunchers, Cabrera does not deserve the AL Most Valuable Player award, triple crown be damned. Their argument: based on analytical measures of raw offensive production and defensive prowess, Los Angeles Angels rookie phenom Mike Trout is the best player in baseball by a landslide. And while the triple-crown triumph is nice, it's largely arbitrary. Why should Cabrera's value depend on whether someone else hits one fewer or one more home run than he does? Whether or not you buy this argument--the dude won the triple freaking crown: just hand Cabrera the trophy--give the stats guys their due. They've given fans more fodder to chew over. And isn't barroom talk the best part of sports?