Cabrera first since '67 to grab Triple Crown

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Cabrera first since '67 to grab Triple Crown

From Comcast SportsNet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Miguel Cabrera had just achieved baseball immortality, and everyone around him knew it.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland had tears welling in his eyes. General manager Dave Dombrowski kept trying to remind people to stop and enjoy the moment. Prince Fielder simply shook his head in disbelief at the history that had unfolded.

Less than an hour earlier, in the midst of Detroit's otherwise meaningless 1-0 victory over Kansas City, it had finally become official: Cabrera had won the Triple Crown.

"Everybody said to me it was unbelievable. They were all excited to see this, enjoy this, be a part of something big," he said, taking the rare feat in stride better than anyone.

Cabrera finished the regular-season hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs, leading the American League in all three statistical categories, making him just the 15th player to achieve the Triple Crown and the first since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

"I've managed a lot of players, managed some great ones, but I've never seen anything like this," Leyland said. "When you're sitting back and it's over with, people are talking about Miguel Cabrera, the rest of the world will have no idea who his manager was, but I will."

Among those in one of baseball's most exclusive clubs are Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson, who called it "an incredible accomplishment for a gifted young man, and Miguel should be proud of his all-around excellence and consistency throughout the season."

Cabrera's achievement wasn't assured until the Yankees pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in their 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Granderson had homered twice to reach 43 for the year, tied with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and one shy of the Tigers' third baseman.

The closest competition in the race for the batting title was Angels rookie Mike Trout, who remains Cabrera's toughest competition for the AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader in RBIs.

"When he's over the plate, he can do anything. He's the best hitter in the game," Trout said. "I think his approach, the way he battles with two strikes -- you leave one pitch over the plate that at-bat and he's going to hit it. He had an unbelievable year."

Perhaps befitting one of the game's reluctant superstars, Cabrera had retired to the visiting clubhouse after he was removed from Wednesday night's game in the fourth inning.

He watch his milestone become official on the television screens perched in the middle of the room, surrounded by Fielder, reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander and a few other teammates.

"He's the best right-handed hitter in the game, the best teammate, the most humble person I know," Fielder said. "Anyone who wins the Triple Crown, he's awesome, man. He's the best."

Commissioner Bud Selig offered his congratulations, calling the Triple Crown "a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history."

The crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave Cabrera a standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out in the fourth but remained in the game, allowing Leyland to remove him with two outs in the bottom half of the inning to another standing ovation from thousands of appreciative fans.

Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, and then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet, almost sheepishly acknowledging the crowd.

"It was like playing at home, having all the fans cheer for you," Cabrera said. "It was an unbelievable feeling, and I was very thankful for the fans in Kansas City."

Cabrera's pursuit of history has occurred largely in the dark, overshadowed by thrilling playoff races, the sheer enormity of the NFL -- even the presidential election.

An event that in other years might dominate headlines has been mostly cast aside.

"The entire baseball world should be here right now," Verlander said.

Perhaps part of the void has to do with Cabrera's very nature.

He's not the boisterous sort, never one to crave attention. He would rather hang out with a couple of buddies than stand in front of a pack of TV cameras, answering the unending stream of questions about what makes him one of the game's most complete hitters.

"That's one of the main reasons we're still playing, because of how good he is and what he does for the ball club," Dombrowski said. "He doesn't like to talk about himself, as anyone who knows him is aware. I think our success helped him in that regard."

To put his feat in perspective, consider horse racing's Triple Crown.

The last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year was Affirmed in 1978, more than a full decade after Yastrzemski's magical summer in Boston.

Whether it's on par with Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters, Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships in golf, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Brett Favre's consecutive games streak at quarterback is open to interpretation, and perhaps some bar-room debate.

Those who have witnessed it firsthand certainly have their opinions.

"It's pretty amazing," said the Royals' Alex Gordon, who watched the drama unfold from his spot in left field. "Honestly, his numbers are like that every year. He has a great average, great home runs, great RBIs. He's a guy who can pull this off, and it's great for the game."

Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval said he was particularly proud that the Triple Crown would be accomplished by a fellow Venezuelan. Cabrera is from Maracay, along the Caribbean coast.

"I'm excited for the country and for the fans that support us every single day. It's a big deal in Venezuela right now," Sandoval said. "It's exciting, especially because of all the things that have happened in his career."

Yes, it seems that every fairytale these days carries a troublesome footnote.

In Cabrera's case, it stems from spring training last year, when he was involved in a drunken-driving incident. According to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla., Cabrera refused to cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared them to shoot him.

The Tigers have been careful to keep him from having to discuss his personal life, but by all accounts, Cabrera has been a model player ever since. This year, he's the Tigers' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player "who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."

"This clubhouse wouldn't be quite as good without him," Leyland said.

While the Triple Crown belongs to Cabrera, the MVP award is still up for grabs.

On one hand, Cabrera dominated the statistical categories favored by traditionalists, the ones that count toward the Triple Crown. On the other hand, Trout was a cut above for champions of new-school baseball thought, those who use more obscure measures such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that are designed to judge a player's overall contribution to a team.

Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said it would be "a shame" if Cabrera didn't win the league's most coveted award. Royals manager Ned Yost earlier offered a similar sentiment.

"I think they're both fantastic players, tremendous players, both of them," Yost said, "but if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, he has to be the MVP, absolutely."

Report: Bradley accepts Chargers defensive coordinator job

Report: Bradley accepts Chargers defensive coordinator job

Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley reportedly agreed Friday night to become defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The 49ers were reportedly in pursuit of Bradley to join the staff of presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan. Bradley spent four seasons as Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator prior to landing the Jacksonville job in 2013. The Jaguars were 14-48 during Bradley's tenure.

Bradley was also reportedly the top candidate for Washington’s defensive coordinator position.

Bradley agreed to join Anthony Lynn’s staff, ESPN reported. Bradley was selected for the Chargers position over defensive backs coach Ron Milus, according to the report.

Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, confirmed this week he intends to take part in a second interview with the 49ers early next week after the NFC Championship game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. He remains as the only candidate for the 49ers' opening, which became open when Chip Kelly was fired after the team's 2-14 season.

The 49ers are not allowed to officially hire Shanahan until the Falcons’ season is over. Shanahan is expected to be involved in the process to hire the 49ers’ general manager, who replaces fired Trent Baalke. Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the front-runner. He is scheduled for a second interview, likely on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough is the only other individual the 49ers interviewed who remains “in play” for the GM job, according to sources.

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

It may have helped that they had been at home for roughly three weeks.

It surely was to their benefit that the NBA schedule provided three days without a game before they confronted perhaps one of the most rigorous weeks of the season.

The Warriors, however, still had to do the work. They still had to finish.

They still had to beat the team that had roughed them up 22 days earlier, and then squelch another squad coming into Oracle Arena on a wave of emotion and, finally, take to the road and get back at a team that handed them a loss in Oakland.

Done, done and done. And in such a fashion that forward Draymond Green referred to it as “our best week of the season.”

In putting away the Rockets 125-108 on Friday in Houston, the Warriors closed out the traditional worker’s week with a 3-0 record against three teams they could see in the postseason. They’d already routed the defending champion Cavaliers 126-91 on Monday and struck down the Thunder 121-101 on Wednesday.

“It’s three good teams in a row,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Houston. “We definitely wanted to come out and make a nice statement, and I think we did that.

“We always can get better. We can’t relax against Orlando, Miami and Charlotte, teams that can creep up on you and have been playing well lately.”

The Magic, Heat and Hornets -- all dreadful to mediocre -- are the kinds of teams that force the Warriors to compete. They don’t stir the senses like the Cavs or the Thunder or the Rockets, three teams with credentials that demand attention from a Warriors team that sometimes cruises against lesser competition.

So this week was not just about winning games. These weren’t just wins, they were emphatic statements, profound evidence that the team remodeled last summer around the addition of Durant is coming together in the heart of the season.

The defense was tight, with Cleveland shooting 35.2 percent, OKC 42.2 percent and Houston 20.0 percent from beyond the arc, which is the only place that matters for the Rockets.

The Warriors resorted to one of their signature turbocharged third quarters to separate from the Rockets. Shooting 61.9 percent and scoring 9 points off Houston turnovers, the Warriors outscored Houston 37-22 in the third, stretching a five-point halftime lead to 20 going into the fourth quarter.

The Warriors now have an NBA-best differential of plus-250 points in the third quarter this season.

“It’s just something that we put an emphasis on,” Green said. “Coming out and getting off to a good start in the second half. Not coming out flat and giving another team life or letting them go on a run and then trying to make it up. And once we go on our run, we can get rolling pretty well and make it tough on other teams.”

That was the case this week, as the Warriors topped 50 percent from the field in all three victories.

Durant scored 32 points against Houston and averaged 31 points over the last three games. Stephen Curry put in 24 points and averaged 22.7 for the week. Green, meanwhile, averaged 12.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 3.7 blocks.

“It was our best week of the season because we’ve gotten better each time we’ve stepped on the floor this week,” Green said. “And that’s what’s most important. It’s not about blasting these three teams. It’s about getting better, and trying to reach our end goal. In order to do that, you have to get better each and every time you step on the floor.

“We did that these three games, so that’s the most important thing. That’s why it’s been a good week, not because of the margin of the wins that we had.”