The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Gastelum: Baseball crowns a new king (Oct. 5)

Andrew Gastelum | Friday, October 5, 2012

There is a reason why it is called the Triple Crown, because winning it puts you in baseball royalty.

Carl Yastrzemski. Frank Robinson. Mickey Mantle. Ted Williams. Joe Medwick. Lou Gehrig. Jimmie Foxx. Rogers Hornsby. Ty Cobb. Nap Najoie. Tip O’Neill. Hugh Duffy. Paul Hines.

And now Miguel Cabrera.

Baseball royalty, it’s a title thousands of Little Leaguers dream of. From the tee to the wooden bat, it is a dream shared by seven-year olds and seven-year veterans alike. At that stage, it is the most beautifully uneven and even playing field at the same time. It is a steeple that this writer and all of us can only wonder about, yet even well-known players such as Torii Hunter and Chase Utley are on the same level as us.

In baseball, history remembers us by what we do. Unfortunately, the chances are your favorite player today will eventually be forgotten tomorrow. It’s the cruel way of the sport, the forbidding nature of time as the seasons pile on. To each of us personally, that favorite player holds some sort of intrinsic weight. Maybe it is a memory that we hold dear or an experience that could never be replicated, but it’s ours and in that form his legacy lives on. But eventually, that player is forgotten.

For the last 45 years now, we have said that the last person to win the Triple Crown was Carl Yastrzemski. Surely some baseball fans lived their entire lives and never saw such a historic feat. And now, we hit reset and say the last person to win the Triple Crown is Miguel Cabrera. We noticed it. We lived it. We witnessed it. As much as Cabrera is a part of baseball history, what is history without the people who experienced it and loved every second of the journey?

Some of history’s greatest hitters sit where we sit, comfortably and yet ever so enviously on the outside looking in. Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Babe Ruth, just to name a few.

History tells us the Triple Crown requires more than the perfect storm. In a sport where a single stint on the DL could kick you from the race before the season even starts, it requires luck – if there is such a concept. In what seems to be the single greatest achievement for individual performance in baseball, it requires the will and drive of teammates to get on base and eventually score. In a year of 162 games that spans six months and three different seasons, it requires the highest degree of focus, determination and mental fortitude.

And above all, it requires skill: contact, power, smarts and preparation.

Since Yaz’s Triple Crown in 1967, baseball has seen the best of its sons make a run at royalty. Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt and Willie McCovey all came within seeing the jewels sparkle on the Crown, but it just wasn’t the right time for a coronation.

Yet Miggy’s Triple Crown goes far beyond others in terms of what it does for baseball moving forward.

Cabrera’s feat makes him the first Latino player to ever win the Triple Crown. In a sport where 27.3 percent of its players are Latino, a Spanish-speaker is finally and so deservedly crowned as the best hitter in baseball. Cabrera’s accomplishment serves as a moment of triumph for an entire community of Latin American, South American and Caribbean past, present and future ballplayers that represent such an important part of the game we love.

Adding Cabrera’s name to that royal list will hopefully symbolize a change in baseball’s Latino sphere of influence, where thousands of kids spend their entire youths trying to make it to the big leagues to one day help their families. Those same kids who may possess similar talents to a younger Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Andrew McCutchen are unjustifiably poached by Major League scouts looking to make a quick, cheap deal while American teenagers receive million-dollar signing bonuses right after graduating high school. Just a name on that list can level this prolonged disorder in baseball as an ambassador for international baseball players and a progressive visionary for equal opportunity.

This isn’t even about the 2012 MVP race or a spot in Cooperstown. It’s about one player’s absolute dominance in three categories that mean so much to the sport and its fans. For once, it’s about history starting over in an era of baseball dominated by the pitcher. It’s about recognizing that the Steroid Era is over, and yet a hitter can still energize the sport.

History is written. History is remembered. In fact, history is in our eyes, the eyes of the beholders.

And on Wednesday, history crowned a new king.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu                             

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.