With the playoff participants set and Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown pretty much secured, we pretty much can put a wrap on the 2012 major-league regular season heading into its final day.
What a kooky, crazy six months or so it’s been.
Boston bombed. Miami imploded. The Phillies, flat out, fell on their faces.
All had been hyped as being well up the game’s hierarchy.
The Orioles came from out of nowhere. So did Oakland. So did the Nationals.
None of them were considered contenders for anything other than being everyday fishermen or hunters or golfers by early October. But, this year, their off-seasons will have to wait.
They all picked up at least a few extra shifts at the ballyard.
Perhaps the saddest tale occurred in Pittsburgh. Having not experienced a winner since Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke were taking postseason anguish to an art form in the early 1990s.
Behind Andrew McCutcheon, the Pirates were poised to have their first winning season in 19 years. On August 8, they were 63-47. By Sunday, they had lost 35 of their next 49 games to extend the longest stretch of futility in the history of North American sports.
Unfortunately, the fuel behind their fire faded out. McCutcheon, who was the NL’s midseason MVP after batting .362 and blasting 18 homers by the All-Star break, slumped the final two months of the season. His high-water mark of the year hit .374 on July 17. In August, though, he batted just .252 with 2 homers. In September, he was only slightly better – .260, 7.
McCutcheon had 60 RBIs by the break – 85 games in. He has just 36 in the 74 games since.
It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots. When their star outfielder fizzled, so did the Buccos.
After being ignored most of the season, Detroit’s Cabrera was “credited” with being a man’s man and not sitting things out during the final series in Kansas City. It’s a nice sentiment, except “Miggy” hadn’t exactly wrapped up his top honors in batting average and homers yet, not with the Angels’ Mike Trout a mere 4 points behind in the former and the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton just 1 off the pace in the latter entering Tuesday night.
Cabrera, with a 10-spot lead in RBIs, appeared pretty secure there.
Despite topping 40 homers, 40 doubles and 200 hits, the Tigers third baseman isn’t likely to crack the 400 total-base mark this season – unless he goes about 8-for-8 in the finale with five homers.
The last player to hit that magic 400? San Francisco’s Barry Bonds went off for 411 in 2001, when he hit a record 73 homers. The closest since then have been Alex Rodriguez, who posted 393 that same year and then 389 the next. Albert Pujols followed with 394 in 2003 and 389 in 2004. Cabrera had 377 following singles in his first two at-bats Tuesday night, marking the most since Phillies slugger Ryan Howard had 383 in 2006.
IT’S A NUMBERS THING
A neat little battle has been in San Diego to close out the season. During the last two months, Padres third baseman Chase Headley and reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun have been trying to one-up each other in the circuit’s RBI race. Now they don’t need to check online or in the paper to see who stands where; they get to see it first-hand this week.
Entering action Tuesday night, Headley had 113 and Braun 112.
Cabrera’s 139, including a pair on Tuesday, top all of baseball.
Don’t be surprised if Buster Posey wrestles the hardware away from Braun this season. The Giants catcher has been a steady, and quietly brilliant, influence on the team’s NL West division-winning efforts. He’s knocked in more than 100 runs, and should win the league’s batting title.
He entered Tuesday night with a .336 average. McCutcheon, in second, is hitting .327 after going 0-for-4 earlier in the evening.