It was as excited as Tigers fans have seen Prince Fielder all season long. His contagious smile has been on display on a nightly basis. His joy for the game is evident. This was different.
As Fielder's long drive to left field cleared the wall in the 8th inning at Target Field on Sunday, he circled the bases with fists pumping at a furious pace. When he arrived at the dugout, there was a genuine fear that he might dislocated some shoulders with the force with which he was delivering his high fives .
Fielder's blast gave the Tigers a 2-1 win over the Twins and in the process reduced his team's magic number to one. It was a jarring blast in an otherwise uninspiring afternoon offensively. The Tigers are now on the brink of making the post season in back to back seasons for the first time since 1934-35. In '34, the Tigers lost to the Cardinals in the World Series. In '35, they won a World Series title, defeating the Chicago Cubs.
It has been a season engulfed by Miguel Cabrera's potential Triple Crown and MVP, but Fielder quietly operates in the background as the other half of the game's top offensive duo. He doesn't seek attention and he is happy to be Cabrera's sidekick. That's fine in most circumstances, but Prince is a superstar himself. Yet, he is quick to point out that he is only here to help the Tigers win.
"This is his team," Fielder said of Cabrera. "I'm here to help him."
There you have it. An offensive force who has hit 30 or more homers in six straight years and plays literally every day, insists that he is not the man in this clubhouse. In some ways however, Fielder deserves equal billing.
Cabrera's storybook season is due to his immense baseball talent. There is no denying that. Still, don't discount Fielder's role. Fielder's presence directly behind Cabrera in the lineup has made opposing managers less likely to pitch around Miggy. Fielder's effect may be impossible to to quantify, but it is real and it exists.
For as much fun as Fielder has playing the game, it is at least equally as fun watching him. Cabrera is about to put the finishing touches on an incredible season, but the guy riding shotgun is pretty good too.
Detroit, MI--The 2003 season seems eons away. Names like Alex Sanchez, Warren Morris and Gene Kingsale dotted the roster. The rotation featured Gary Knotts, Nate Cornejo and Adam Bernero. The Tigers had to win five of their last six games to avoid 120 losses. In doing so, they allowed the 1962 Mets to keep the all-time record for losses in a season to themselves.
Three years later the Tigers were in the World Series. It was a remarkable turnaround for an organization whose owner was desperate to win.
The Tigers highest paid player in 2003 was Bobby Higginson who earned just under $12 million. The 2012 Tigers have three players (Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder) who will earn a minimum of $20 million this season.
Mike Ilitch has made the financial commitment to keep the Tigers competitive. With six games remaining in 2012, the Tigers have a two game lead in the division. The Magic Number is five as the ballclub aims for its second straight division crown and post-season appearance.
With 2003 as a backdrop, this season should provide fans with a sense of appreciation. Yet, in the eyes of many, this year has been a disappointment. High payrolls breed high expectations, and Tigers fans expected this team to run away and hide.
It hasn't quite worked out that way, but the Tigers are on the brink of joining four other American League teams for the chance to play of a World Series title.
Astros fans would kill for a chance to change places with you.
This may not be the perfect team, but it's a club that has battled through injuries and underachievement. For that, we should enjoy the process. 2006 taught us that you just need to get in. Last year's Cardinals team proved that as well.
Don't worry about what this team isn't, but rather enjoy what it is.
Detroit, MI- It hasn’t been done by a Detroit Tiger since 1909. In fact, it’s the only time a Tiger has accomplished the feat. Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown in the American League that year, and now 103 years later, Miguel Cabrera has a legitimate shot to become the second Tiger to win the elusive award.
Not since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 has any player led the league in home runs, RBI’s and batting average.
Back to Cobb. His .377 average and 107 RBI in 1909 were impressive numbers, but that season Cobb led the league with only 9 home runs. Cabrera hit his ninth homer this season on May 27th. The game has certainly changed.
As September kicks into high gear and the pennant races heat up, Cabrera is quietly positioning himself in the top three in the Triple Crown categories.
Cabrera would never talk about his chances of accomplishing the feat because he is much too concerned with team goals. The fact remains though, that his shot is becoming more and more legitimate.
What was once a seemingly insurmountable lead for Mike Trout in the average category has disappeared. Cabrera has caught Trout, each batting .330 as of Thursday. Cabrera’s 116 RBI’s are tops in the league and two more than Josh Hamilton.
The Home Run category will be the challenge. Adam Dunn and Hamilton have each hit 38 homers, but a surging Miggy is now just three shy of the pace.
You can make an argument for the Triple Crown being the most difficult accomplishment in baseball. Anything that has not been achieved since 1967 qualifies as quite an exploit. Ask any big league hitter and they may say hitting .400 is more difficult. Ted Williams is the last to do it back in 1941. Either way, leading your league in the three major offensive categories takes a special talent.
Cabrera is as special as they come. His ability and willingness to hit the ball up the middle and the other way makes him a threat to win a batting title, as he did last season. A late season power surge seems to be in the making as well, with Cabrera hitting three home runs in his last six games.
September has a way of separating the boys from the men and Cabrera is a good bet to outdistance the rookie Trout for the batting title. Can he hold of Hamilton and Dunn in the power categories? I would not bet against him.