A Star Achieves Baseball Greatness: Revisiting Miguel Cabrera’s Spectacular 2012 Season

A look back at one of the best individual seasons in recent baseball memory.

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By Shirley Tan

As the suspension of the 2020 MLB season continues due to the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to take a look back at one of the best offensive seasons in recent baseball memory. The rarest feat someone can accomplish offensively is the Triple Crown, meaning that a player leads all other players in their league in batting average, RBIs, and home runs. Only seven players in the history of the American League have ever achieved this feat and only one player has in the last 50 years. That one player was Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera, and in 2012, he dominated Major League Baseball (MLB).

First, it’s important to really explain how extremely rare this feat is. The last player to achieve a Triple Crown before Cabrera was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. To put that in perspective, Yastremski’s grandson, Mike Yastrzemski, now plays in the MLB. In order to achieve this feat, one must not only be able to hit for contact, power, and being clutch, but they also must have been graced with at least a little bit of luck. Cabrera isn’t necessarily the best player of his generation, but seemingly, he was the most complete and had the mix of contact, power, and luck to accomplish this feat.

So how exactly did he get there? From an early age, Cabrera was a baseball prodigy. Signed by the Florida Marlins out of Venezuela at the age of 16, he quickly rose through the minor leagues. By the age of 20, he was a budding star and part of a young and talented Marlins core. Evidence of his talent and potential was on full display during his major league debut, in which Cabrera hit a game-winning home run and became the third player in MLB history to do so. The Marlins reached the World Series that year facing the New York Yankees, a team that won three out of the previous five years and lost in the World Series another one of those years. Cabrera didn’t let the big spot put him down, and in game four, he got a chance to be a hero. After a long back and forth at bat with the great Roger Clemens, “Miggy” hit a two-run home run that helped propel the team to victory, and eventually, they rallied past the Yankees in six games. It seemed like Cabrera was going to be a part of a potential Marlins dynasty for years to come.

However, in the following years, the Marlins would not see the same success. While Cabrera’s production only increased, the team failed to reach the playoffs. In addition, Cabrera struggled with personal issues, including alcohol abuse and weight gain. At that point, he seemed to be one of the league’s best—but one who was unfortunately stuck with one of the league’s worst teams. Cabrera was eventually traded in 2017 to the Detroit Tigers, where he saw both team and personal successes: in 2011, the Tigers broke out in a 95-67 campaign led by Cabrera’s .344 average and while they lost in ALCS to the Texas Rangers, both the Tigers and Cabrera looked to be very successful in 2012.

And successful he was. Cabrera got off to a hot start and never looked back. With about 12 days left in the season, he stood atop the AL in batting average and RBIs, and he only trailed the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton by one home run for the lead. Hamiltons’ Rangers, however, were well ahead of the pack in the AL West for the division title, so he got some extra days off down the stretch. Cabrera took advantage, hitting three more home runs in the last 10 games and maintaining his high batting average (along with his RBIs), ending up with a whopping .330 batting average, 44 HRs, and 139 RBIs. Nobody even topped 125 RBIs in 2019. Cabrera walked away from that season with his first MVP, the Triple Crown, and led the Tigers to the playoffs once again.

Since 2012, only two players have finished first in two of the Triple Crown categories for their league—let alone all three. Cabrera finished first in batting average once again and second in RBIs and home runs in 2013, coming fairly close to going back to back, something that would have been incredible beyond belief. Nonetheless, Cabrera achieved greatness in 2012, accomplishing something that at the time seemed like it would never happen again. It will likely be some time before we see someone achieve this feat again—so for now, all we can do is appreciate Cabrera’s success.