KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Prince Fielder giggled. Then again, there was a lot of that going around the Detroit clubhouse late Wednesday night.
With waves of cameras and tape recorders circling Miguel Cabrera on his historic, Triple-Crown clinching evening, a reporter approached the Tigers’ burly first baseman, standing just two locker stalls away, with news: While holding down a front-row seat to watch history, Fielder had actually made a little piece of his own.
“Did I really?” Fielder chuckled after the Tigers’ 1-0 victory over Kansas City, the contest that saw Cabrera nab baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years. “What did I do?”
“You were the first guy since 1947 to hit regularly behind the league MVP one season, then hit behind the Triple-Crown winner the next,” the reporter replied.
“Wow,” Fielder said, allowing himself a grin. “That’s good. Sweet. Sweet.
“Like I said, I’m just glad I’m able (to see it). I had the best seat in the house, so I got to watch it every night.”
The dude did more than watch. Miggy’s numbers in 2011 before Prince: .344, 30 home runs, 105 RBI, .586 slugging, 108 walks.
Miggy in 2012 with Prince as protection: .330, 44 home runs, 139 RBI, .606 slugging — and just 66 walks.
More chances. More swings. More pitches to hit. More mojo.
“That’s why Miggy has been able to have the season that he’s had,” Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer noted. “Because you can’t just pitch around Miggy, because Prince is so good. And when Miggy gets pitches to hit, that’s what he’s capable of doing.”
Cabrera’s always had the goods. But when your alternative is rolling the dice with the two-time Home Run Derby champ, kids, it’s a different deal entirely. Pick your poison. Pick your pain.
“I think what’s happened with him is that, because Miguel had such a good year, and you have (Justin) Verlander on the club coming back as the MVP,” Tigers CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski said, “People don’t notice what a good year he’s had.”
They should. In his first year with Detroit, the big lug wound up leading the club in walks (85) and on-base percentage (.412) while finishing second in home runs (30) and RBI (108), the left-handed thunder to Cabrera’s right-handed lightning.
And the later it got, the more dangerous Miggy became. In 2011, before Prince, Cabrera hit five of 30 home runs and collected 16 of his 105 RBI in the eighth inning or later, while being walked 19 times.
In 2012, with Prince on deck, Cabrera hit 11 of his 39 home runs and collected 30 of his 139 RBI in the eighth inning or later, while receiving just 13 free passes.
That’s the power of Prince. That’s the cushion he gave Ryan Braun during his MVP season with Milwaukee a year ago. And unlike the last two men to ride the Triple Crown-MVP coat-tails back-to-back — Bobby Doerr behind Ted Williams in 1946-47, and Don Hurst behind Chuck Klein in 1932-33 — Fielder turned the trick with two different teams, in two different leagues, behind two different bats.
“That’s why our team was able to have the season (that) we are this year,” Scherzer continued, “because those two guys were able to produce so much offense for us.”
Since 1920, the end of the “Dead Ball” era, 16 batters have hit four home runs in a single game. Since 1920, 15 players have turned unassisted triple plays. Since 1920, there’ve been only 12 Triple-Crown winners. Twelve. Like they say, it takes a village.
“I wouldn’t have been able to be here to see this unless he gave me the chance,” Fielder said of Cabrera, who made the switch from first base over to third base when the former was signed as a free agent this past January. “And I’m very happy and fortunate that he’s the kind of guy he is.
“Like I said before, he didn’t have to move anywhere; he just won the batting title (in 2011), and that’s MIGUEL CABRERA — if he doesn’t want to do it, he doesn’t have to do it.”