KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Miguel Cabrera sat in front of his locker in the corner of the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, slinging some Spanish banter at a table full of teammates.
There were no television cameras hovering over him. No microphones stuck in his face. None of the commotion that could be reasonably expected as the soft-spoken Detroit Tigers slugger closes in on baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years.
The entire baseball world should be here right now, said Justin Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. We’ve got, sorry to say, the regular guys.
I think he’s been relatively under the radar for what he’s done, for what he’s doing. It hasn’t happened in 40-some years, Verlander continued, his voice rising. It kind of annoys me. I don’t know about anybody else. I don’t know about him. It probably doesn’t annoy him.
It certainly doesn’t annoy Cabrera, who will politely answer just about any question posed to him, but would just as soon spend his time hanging out with his buddies.
The perfect example came Monday night, shortly after Cabrera had four hits and a home run in a 6-3 victory over the Royals that clinched the AL Central. He was asked about contributing so much to another division title, and Cabrera deflected the attention back on his teammates.
We got it done with the first one, he said quietly. That was our goal.
Now, though, the spotlight shifts squarely to the broad shoulders of Cabrera, who started at third base in Tuesday night’s game in Kansas City. He had two hits and drove in two runs before leaving in the fifth inning, and the Royals rallied to beat his AL Central champion Tigers 4-2.
With one game remaining in the regular season, Cabrera leads the American League in average (.331), home runs (44) and RBIs (139), putting him on the brink of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Angels rookie Mike Trout and Twins catcher Joe Mauer are giving chase for the batting title, which Cabrera won last year, while Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton trails him by a single home run.
Maybe the home run mark is why Cabrera was in the starting lineup.
Rather than sit on the bench and watch things play out – by doing so, likely locking up the batting title – Cabrera told manager Jim Leyland that he wanted to play. And he didn’t want to be the designated hitter, either.
As for Cabrera’s relatively quiet pursuit of baseball history? Well, Leyland is content to sit on the bench and take it all in, right beside Verlander and the rest of the Tigers. They all want him to win it. They want it bad, and you can tell that, and certainly he’s no exception, Leyland said. They’re pulling so hard for him, you know? Hopefully we’ll have some fun with it the next couple days and hopefully he’ll get it done.