BOXFORD — Boston Red Sox legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski has a message for Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and his “crowning” achievement last night.
Welcome to the club.
Cabrera finished the job last night on the final night of the regular season for Major League Baseball. He clinched the Triple Crown — the American League leader for highest batting average (.330), most homers (44) and runs batted in (139).
The last major leaguer to do it was Yastrzemski, who averaged .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI in 1967. Before that, Frank Robinson copped the honor in 1966, Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947.
And Andover’s Yastrzemski has no animosity that this personal record of sorts has been broken.
“I am really happy for him because I know how hard it is to accomplish,” said Yastrzemski, before heading out to a Cape Ann marina yesterday to get his boat out of the water for the season. “A lot of guys have been close. Albert Pujols has been close a few times. (Matt Kemp) was last year, winning two out of three. But (Jose) Reyes got hot the last year and won the batting title. It’s really hard to win.”
Besides having the talent — Cabrera is “big, strong and has a powerful swing without having to over-swing” — Yastrzemski says Cabrera had the same two prerequisites he had 45 years earlier.
One is support in the lineup, as in the next batter in the lineup.
“He had (Prince) Fielder hitting behind him. He’s an MVP candidate. I had Tony Conigliaro hitting behind me for most of the year (until he got hurt). Then I had George Scott and Ken Harrelson. It gives the pitcher less of a chance to pitch around you with a dangerous guy behind you. With a guy like Conigliaro or Fielder, you have to challenge the guy in front of them.”
And two, which probably is most important, says Yastrzemski, is being on that makes a run at the pennant/playoffs.
“It is so much easier when you are focused on winning and not on statistics,” said Yastrzemski, who had 12 RBI over his last five games.
“I remember just focusing on playing well. That means getting on base or making a nice play in the field. When your team is going well, you can get in that zone. You don’t even realize you’re putting up the stats you’re putting up. People talk about pressure, but I don’t remember feeling pressure. I remember having a lot of fun.”
Yastrzemski admits he only started paying attention to Cabrera’s pursuit of the Triple Crown a few days ago.
“Cabrera had some very good years where he’s been in the running in all three categories,” says Yastrzemski. “But so much can happen in a few days. Everything changes from day to day. He only had a one homer lead on Josh Hamilton ... So you never know. That’s the thing I love most about baseball. Every day is different. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Yaz on 2013: In Ben I trust. Red Sox legend and baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski isn’t about to abandon ship on his favorite major league team. In fact, to the contrary.
“They obviously didn’t play well, but you have to look at all of the injuries they had (even before the trade),” said Yastrzemski. “It was everywhere in the lineup, including the pitching staff and relievers. Sometimes it happens. You have to move on.”
Yastrzemski believes this ownership and, in particular, this general manager, have what it takes to fix what ails this team sooner rather than later. “I believe in Ben Cherington,” said Yastrzemski.
“He’s a good baseball man. I talk to him every spring. He will fix it. I like the fact that Ben listens to people and asks for their opinions. Believe me, nobody in this business knows it all.” Yastrzemski also believes that the Red Sox will spend the resources, be it in free agency or the minor league system, to make the Red Sox a contender as soon as is humanly possible.
“All I know is that before this ownership came in, there was nothing in the minors,” said Yastrzemski. “I’ve been around the organization every spring in Fort Myers. I’ve seen the talent they’ve brought it. And if there is a high draft choice, and they really like him, they will entice a kid to sign because they’re not afraid to pay.”