The Detroit Tigers are in a spirited battle to win the American League Central, which might be just what their third baseman Miguel Cabrera needs to win the Triple Crown.
While the rest of Major League Baseball is focused on whether this 29-year-old slugger can become the first player to lead the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in (RBI) since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Cabrera is focused on winning.
He called the possibility of winning a Triple Crown "amazing" in a recent interview with ESPN. And after six more words on the topic, he said: "We've got to focus on winning games right now."
Cabrera was leading the league with a .333 batting average and 130 RBI entering the weekend. He hit five home runs in five games to pull within one of Josh Hamilton, the Texas outfielder who leads with 42 to Cabrera's 41. And Hamilton missed two games with sinus problems before heading back to Dallas for more tests.
"Maybe I'm sick for a reason," Hamilton told the Associated Press. "Maybe it's his time. I don't really care about holding on to the home run lead. He's a good dude and he's played consistently well for a long time. It would be cool if there was another winner. There's nobody I'd rather see win it than him."
A few months ago, Hamilton seemed far more likely to win the first Triple Crown in 45 years, but he has faded as Cabrera has surged, and his bid comes with 10 days left in the season.
Cabrera is the first player since Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead in batting and RBI and stand within two home runs of the lead in the final two weeks of the season. Nobody since "Yaz" has finished a season first in two categories and second in another, according to ESPN.
Cabrera is the first Tiger to hit 40 or more home runs since Cecil Fielder in 1991, and he's doing it with Cecil's son, Prince, batting behind him. Cabrera also can become the first Tiger to win consecutive batting titles since the legendary Ty Cobb.
Winning the Triple Crown might also ensure that Cabrera beats out Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels rookie sensation, for the AL MVP award. While Cabrera's offensive numbers dwarf Trout's in categories like RBI and home runs, the debate rages over the importance of "wins above replacement", a statistic which incorporates defence and baserunning. Those are areas where Trout has a clear advantage over Cabrera, as he does in "WAR", 10.2 to 6.5.
The last three Triple Crown winners also won MVP awards, including Frank Robinson (1966) and Mickey Mantle (1956). It would be hard for voters to go against tradition like that.