Watching Miguel Cabrera swing a bat over the last several summers has been like listening to a commercial-free classic rock station: The hits just keep on coming, one after another. A third straight batting title in 2013, this time by a comfortable cushion over runner-up Joe Mauer, took some of the sting out of Miggy falling short in his bid to become history’s first repeat Triple Crown winner.
But those batting titles! Just to be in a position to capture a fourth straight in 2014 places Cabrera in incredibly select company. In the entire history of major-league baseball – we’re talking a stretch of 137 years – a reigning three-peat batting champ has had the opportunity to make it four in a row on only nine different occasions. The encouraging news for Miggy is that, more often than not, that particular batter has been successful in pulling off a quad-peat. (Is that even a word?)
In chronological order, here are the six times a player has been successful (marked by an asterisk) and the three times a hitter has failed in his quest to win four consecutive batting championships.
*Honus Wagner, 1909 Pittsburgh: The Pirates’ bowlegged shortstop batted .339 in 1909 to easily win a fourth straight batting title. Wagner went on to outhit Ty Cobb, .333 to .231, in the World Series as Pittsburgh beat the Tigers in seven games.
*Ty Cobb, 1910 Detroit: In the most controversial batting race ever, the St. Louis Browns gave Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie eight gift hits in a doubleheader on the final day of the 1910 season so he could beat out the unpopular Cobb for the batting title. A few weeks later, when the official figures were released, American League president Ban Johnson ruled that Cobb had nonetheless squeaked by Lajoie, .384 to .383, to win his fourth straight batting crown. Decades later, a researcher discovered the Peach had been mistakingly (or not) awarded an extra 2-for-3 day by the league statistician. Take away those two hits and Cobb is narrowly beaten out by Lajoie. While some revisionists have since named Lajoie the season’s rightful champ, in most circles Cobb remains the official winner, the beneficiary of a kind of statute of limitations and a feeling that Lajoie had benefitted unfairly from the Browns’ shenanigans. The Peach would run his string of batting titles to a record nine straight before Boston’s Tris Speaker broke the streak in 1916.
Ty Cobb, 1920 Detroit: Coming off three straight batting titles during the World War I years, Cobb hit a disappointing (for him) .334 in 1920, way down the list from George Sisler’s league-high .407 for the St. Louis Browns. Cobb never won another batting crown after 1919, retiring in 1928 with an even dozen.
*Rogers Hornsby, 1923 St. Louis Cardinals: Arguably the greatest right-handed hitter ever, “The Rajah” was in the midst of winning six straight batting titles for the Cardinals in the ‘20s. His fourth straight, in 1923, saw him hit .384 to easily outdistance runner-up Zack Wheat of Brooklyn. A .358 career hitter, second only to Cobb’s .367, Hornsby later added a seventh and final batting title in the decade with the Boston Braves.
Stan Musial, 1953 St. Louis Cardinals: “Stan the Man” was in his prime, but he finished third on the batting list this season, seven points behind Brooklyn outfielder Carl Furillo, who hit .344. Musial claimed seven batting titles in his career and finished his 22-year career with a .331 lifetime mark.
*Rod Carew, 1975 Minnesota: Carew easily outdistanced Red Sox rookie sensation Fred Lynn, .359 to .331, in 1975 to capture his fourth straight batting crown. Carew won seven batting crowns overall, all but one of them during the 1970s.
*Wade Boggs, 1988 Boston: Going into the 1988 season, the Red Sox third sacker had already grabbed four batting titles by the time he was 29, including the last three in a row. This year the hits were even more valuable, as his .366 average—best in the majors—helped Boston edge Sparky Anderson’s Tigers by a game for the Eastern Division crown. It was Boggs’ fifth and last batting title.
Tony Gwynn, 1990 San Diego: All good things must come to an end. The Padres’ outfielder won the last three National League batting championships of the 1980s, but he hit a career-low .309 in 1990 in defense of his title. Willie McGee, who was traded from St. Louis to Oakland in late August, had enough at-bats to qualify as the National League champ with a .335 average.
*Tony Gwynn, 1997 San Diego: The 37-year-old Gwynn captured a fourth straight batting championship in 1997 with a .372 mark, six points better than Colorado’s Larry Walker. Gwynn retired four years later with a .338 career average and eight batting titles under his belt, tying Honus Wagner’s NL record.
2 replies on “Miggy will gun for a fourth straight batting crown in 2014“
A healthy Miggy has a good chance at the batting title in 2014 . Lets hope he can lead the club back to the post season again . As I travel the state talking to other fans I continue to hear about the Fister trade . Baseball is a huge business and the Fister trade was looked on as a business decision . Like it or not we now have to live with it . Sure hope it works out !!
Cabrera’s hitting prowess with the long and short ball continues to be artistry. As a fan, I’m glad to have the opportunity to witness his at bats so frequently. He appears to be as satisfied getting the base hit as when he hits the home run. And more interesting is that he always looks like he’s having fun playing the game.
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