Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Triple Crown, and Other Thoughts


   By David Newhan

     There is a lot of baseball hype and talk these days concerning the possibility of another Triple Crown winner. While I would love to see it happen-exciting on both a personal level and for the industry in general-- I really feel that it won't happen and might never happen again.

      Let’s face it, horse racing has not seen a Triple Crown winner for over 30 years and only 11 horses in all have achieved the feat--and some of the same dynamics are involved. One has to go back to 1978 when Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes!

      Baseball's ever elusive Triple Crown goes to the player who can lead their respective league in batting average, homeruns and runs batted in. The last man to achieve the feat was Carl Yastrzemski, who was the clutch performer behind what became known in Boston's Red Sox Nation as the Impossible Dream in 1967.

      A year earlier, in 1966, Frank Robinson led in all three categories. Before him, the famed Mickey Mantle did it in 1956. Ted Williams, despite the years he lost in baseball while an aviator defending our freedoms, accomplished the Triple Crown not once but twice! The real life John Wayne did it in 1942 and 1947. After that short list, one has to go back to the 1930’s and the talented likes of Medwick, Klein and Jimmie Fox.

     My point is obvious. It is extremely rare and difficult. A player must not only remain healthy and on top of his game every day for the course of a long season,  but he must have some luck as well. Let’s examine some of these past performances.

    Yaz in ’67 hit .326 with 44 HR’s and 121 RBI’s. At best, maybe his home run total would stand up this year, but  I have to believe someone will hit for a higher average and drive in more runs. Same argument for big Frank Robinson, whose numbers were .316, 49 HRs and 122 RBI. In 1947 Ted Williams hit only 32 HR. That surely would not hold up today. In 1942 the Splendid Splinter had only 36. The one year in which you could say the Triple Crown numbers may have stood up over the course of time was Mickey Mantle’s 1956 performance. That year Mantle hit a scorching .353 with 52 ‘taters and 130 RBI. Even then, maybe the RBI numbers aren't enough in current times.

    The thing is that despite all of these guys throwing up huge years, they each were lucky that no one else challenged in one of the areas in which their numbers were not quite as strong. Furthermore, in todays game, specialization reigns supreme. Certain guys are apt to do one or two things very well. Look at Ichiro and his average, Ryan Howard with HR’s and RBI totals, Dunn and Fielder with all their power. Even the all-around A-Rod and Pujols, for all their ability, do not always put up the necessary triple numbers.

   This year, the challengers most talked about are Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. Cabrera trails Hamilton by 10 points in average but leads by 13 RBI. They both are three home runs shy of the lead in that category, held surprisingly by Jose Bautista. Despite my admiration and respect for Cabrera’s skill as a hitter, and what he has overcome on a personal level, I would think Hamilton, who has battled his own personal wars, has the best bet. The Ballpark at Arlington is terrific place to hit. Maybe the best in baseball. Especially for a lefty. The wind funnels out to right center and can really make the ball carry. Hamilton’s only problem might be on his own team in the form of big, bad Vlad Guerrero. Vladdy Daddy is having a resurgence in Texas and has remained healthy. He is also eating up all of Hamilton's RBI chances.While Hamilton had 67 RBI through Monday  Vlad had 76. If Vlad remains healthy, I think it will be hard for Hamilton to make up that deficit.

    Cabrera is an amazing hitter but I do not think that Detroit is as good a place to hit and that might hurt him in the HR and average race. Also, while Hamilton and Cabrera grind it out every day, Justin Morneau of Minnesota is sitting on the disabled list with his average at .345. If Cabrera and Hamilton slip a little, Morneau will come off the DL with a great chance to win a batting title.

   Like I said, you have to be lucky.

   In the NL, Joey Votto is in the mix as well as the perenial Pujols. Andre Ethier had a great start but a broken thumb cost him time on the DL. Any DL time really makes it difficult catching up in the HR and RBI categories. My argument against a Triple Crown in the NL is that there is a guy named Ryan Howard who plays in a band box. He has proven to dominate the power divisions of the Triple Crown and it would be awfully hard to supplant him in both, let alone one of those categories. Furthermore, while Pujols will annually challenge history, I think he would benefit from a park that was a little bit more hitter friendly. I would love to see history. I would love to see one of these guys get even hotter and win a Triple Crown. It is my opinion, though, that there are too many good players standing in the way of total domination in all three categories.

   I am not banking on it happening this year or any time soon.

  Trade Deadline
  With July 31 rapidly approaching it difficult avoiding the rumors as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

   I am sure I will get more involved over the next few days, but I had a couple of names I wanted to throw out there now.

   As a San Diego Country area resident, I would love to see the surprising Padres go out and get Ty Wiggington from Baltimore. He is a versatile defender that can flat out hit. He gives you enough on defense to keep him in the lineup every day, and the man deserves his at bats because he provides a professional RBI threat with every at bat. Also, his contract doesn’t scare you.

  Will Milwaukee part with Corey Hart? He could be another fit for the Padres or Giants. Is Philadelphia's Jason Werth on the market and,  if so, what is his value?

  With the injuries to Andy Pettite and A.J. Burnett, do the Yankees make a splash on Roy Oswalt?

  I am still unsure if Drayton McLane parts with Oswalt or Lance Berkman.

 The Mets--aside from the Rangers acquisition of Cliff Lee--already made a key deadline move by activating Carlos Beltran. This guy can get white hot and carry a team for a month at a time, but they are still in the market for a starting pitcher, and the back end of their bullpen has struggled. I think the Mets should try and pick up the versatile Brett Myers from Houston. He is affordable, pitching great, and has pennant race experience. Moreover, what Philly fan wouldn't hate to see former Phillie Myers join the dreaded Mets and help them to an NL East title or wild card berth?

  Can the cash-strapped Dodgers acquire a starting pitcher and can the Angels manage to bring in Adam Dunn now that Paul Konerko is probably off the market with his White Sox leading the American League Central?

  Anyhow, it should be exciting to see who the movers and shakers will be over the next two weeks with so many teams in the running for division titles and wild card berths.

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