An undefeated NFL season. A perfect college football season. A tennis Grand Slam. Tiger. Michael. The Miracle On Ice. Even horse racing’s Triple Crown. All have been accomplished and celebrated time and again in American sport SINCE Carl Yastrzemski ‘s1967 season for the Boston Red Sox, the last time, until Wednesday night, that any player in baseball had finished the season with The Triple Crown.
In a year of perfect games, rookie phenoms, a knuckleballer winning 20 games and the hearts of millions, down to the wire pennant races, even a division title in Washington, Miguel Cabrera’s feat should have been the stuff of legend….celebrated in every newspaper and in two languages across the country. Yet the elusive and amazing feat was almost lost amidst the finish of the Oakland A’s, Bobby Valentine’s firing in Boston, Mike Trout’s amazing rookie run and postseason baseball on both ends of The Beltway. Why?
Hard to say, but it is a shame that such an elusive and rare effort, something that many experts thought was as difficult in today’s era as 30 wins in a season for a pitcher, somehow still hasn’t been fully embraced. Was it the market? Hard to believe. Some may view Detroit as a small market but that didn’t stop the sports world from embracing the efforts of Justin Verlander a year ago, and the PR team of the Tigers knows how to tell a story. Had it been David Wright in New York or Matt Kemp in LA or even Josh Hamilton in Texas, the marketing and media watch would have been on day after day, countdown and all.
Is it because he is Hispanic? Well baseball has done an amazing job of embracing its Hispanic stars on a grand scale, be it Albert Pujols or Jose Reyes, so that can’t be it. Yes he is Venezuelan and his English is not the best, but the sport has perhaps the largest Spanish-language following short of soccer and he hails from a country where baseball is king, so the crossover potential should have been huge.
Is it his image? He has had alcohol issues more than once in the past, being arrested and charged with a DUI in 2011 which followed a previous arrest in 2010, also for alcohol. However he has never been a disruption on the field or in the community, and he carried a franchise on his back for the month of September, really leading the Tigers in a rush over the White Sox and into the playoffs again. He has a foundation that works with young people and he lives in suburban Birmingham, so that should all play in his favor too.
Does he not want to work with companies? Well he has deals with New Balance and a few other smaller brands, so that can’t be the issue.
So why did most of America miss Cabrera’s amazing accomplishment instead of sitting on the edge of their seats last night as his numbers finally locked in to the three titles?
Few thoughts. He is not flashy or flamboyant and he is not a lightning rod for attention. No Manny Ramirez here. He does his foundation work quietly and is workman like in his approach to the game. No out of the box life changing story for tabloids to glam on to. He also plays for a manager and in a system that promotes their players but is probably more about team and system than any of the other teams in postseason. Verlander is the marketable star. Cabrera? The guy’s guy. Ironically the players who were chasing him…the Yankees Granderson, Trout of the Angels and the Rangers Hamilton…all would have gotten parades and the cover of Time Magazine had they taken the crown. Cabrera? Many in this statistical age are challenging his rite to the MVP. Heck, maybe he just wants to go about his business without the exposure and the accolades that go with such a historic event.
Maybe it’s because The Triple Crown is so elusive that it was almost incomprehensible to the casual fan. Maybe it’s because there were so many story lines that fans loved down the stretch…even Dickey’s Cy Young-worthy season…that somehow Cabrera fell between the cracks. Maybe it is because he was basking in the shadow of the All-American wunderkind Trout. Maybe it’s because he is not a master at social media. Maybe it’s a little of all that added up to a cloud that swallowed such a legendary season.
The great thing about baseball is that it is timeless. No clock, and of course the playoffs are just beginning. So there is still time. Time for brands…those who activate in the Hispanic marketplace especially…to embrace the accomplishment. Time for traditional brands to stand up and celebrate. Time for an all-out push for the community side to expand and embrace his presence on the CR side? Time for him to get the global exposure through MLB and also through next spring’s World Baseball Classic?
Hopefully we still have time to give Cabrera his due. It certainly doesn’t happen every day, and it seems at best the brand of baseball only got him a double, when he was worthy of touching all the brand bases, at least on his accomplishments alone.