Rounding Third: Don't blame Cabrera if Tigers miss playoffs

It has been 45 years since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski won a Triple Crown. But here we are, with a little more than two weeks left in the regular season, and we have a real shot of it happening once again.

Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera is making a push and after his two-home run, six-RBI night on Tuesday, he leads the majors with a .333 average and 129 RBI. His career-best 40 home runs are also just two shy of Texas' Josh Hamilton for the lead.

"That's a hard thing to do. You've got to be lucky," Cabrera said of a potential Triple Crown. "Hopefully, we get lucky in our division and win more games."

Of course, Cabrera would rather see his team in the postseason than win a Triple Crown or even an MVP Award. But that could be out of his control, as heading into action on Wednesday the Tigers found themselves three games back of the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.

Catching the White Sox is probably the only option for the Tigers, who are 5 1/2 games back of the second wild card in the AL.

The schedule, though, favors Detroit down the stretch. After a three-game set with the Oakland Athletics, the Tigers wrap the season with 13 games against the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, two teams who are 21 and 15 games under .500, respectively.

And if the Tigers do happen to get themselves into the mix in October, you can bet your last dollar that Cabrera will be the AL MVP.

"In this case, I'm not being partial," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said recently. "Sometimes we are. And I think you should be if it's your player; you're going to stick up for him more than somebody else's player first. But this time, I'm not even being partial towards Cabrera."

They say MVPs are handed out in September. Well, all Cabrera has done in 16 games this month is hit .373 with seven home runs and 20 RBI. Still, though, the Tigers are only 8-8 in those games.

How about this scenario? Say the White Sox hold on and win the division, but Cabrera wins a Triple Crown? Could Cabrera actually win a Triple Crown and be denied his first MVP?

It has happened before. Boston's Ted Williams won two Triple Crowns (1942, 1947) and finished second in MVP voting each time. Lou Gehrig actually finished fifth in the MVP voting the year of his Triple Crown in 1934.

If you want to take on the actual meaning of the award, what was more valuable to a team than a superstar volunteering to switch positions to make his team even better?

That's exactly what Cabrera did this spring when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to play first base. And by the way, Cabrera hasn't embarrassed himself in the least playing the hot corner.

But then again, even though the Tigers are only three games back of a playoff spot, they have to be looked at as a huge disappointment this season. You'd be hard pressed to find any preseason publication that didn't have Detroit winning its division by a mile.

If Cabrera wins a Triple Crown, but the Tigers fail to get to the playoffs, how can voters overlook Hamilton's numbers for a team that will actually will be playing in October?

A lot of people will still lean toward Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim super rookie Mike Trout. His call-up pretty much coincided with the Angels' uptick in the standings in early May. Aside from all of his offensive prowess, Trout also has become one of the top defensive outfielders in the game and leads the league in stolen bases.

And modern voters have started to follow the WAR stat, which the 20-year-old Trout's No. of 10.3 is the highest of any position player since Barry Bonds had the same number in 2004. That's actually pretty remarkable considering Trout has only played 125 of a possible 148 games.

It should be an exciting couple of weeks.