Just because: Frank Robinson's bid for back-to-back triple crowns
The ongoing efforts of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera to win a second straight triple crown call to mind the prior efforts of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
As the baseball enthusiast is surely aware, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, winner of the 2012 triple crown, is presently aiming to become the first slugger in major-league history to win back-to-back triple crowns. Complicating his bid are the nagging injuries that presently afflict him and all those home runs that Baltimore's Chris Davis so inconsiderately keeps hitting.
Cabrera's efforts -- efforts that will likely come to grief, it must be said -- call to mind those of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who won the triple crown in 1966 and, ergo, tried for a repeat in '67. Even more than Cabrera's 2013, Robinson's 1967 stands as an archetypal tale of "what might have been."
In '66, Robinson, perhaps fueled by his being unceremoniously traded from the Reds to the Orioles, batted .316, smote 49 homers and plated 122 runs -- league-leading totals, all. For his bestowals, Robinson was the unanimous choice as AL MVP (teammates Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell finished second and third, respectively).
Over the first three months or so of the 1967 season, Robinson was again hitting like a house afire. In fact, on June 27, he paced the AL in batting average (.337 to Carl Yastrzemski's .336) and RBI (59 to Harmon Killebrew's 57) and trailed Killebrew by only one atop the home-run leaderboard (22 to Robinson's 21). However, that same day, Robinson slid hard into second base and collided with Al Weis of the White Sox. Robinson's head bounced off Weis's knee, both men went down in heaps, and Chicago center fielder Ken Berry rushed in to apply the tag to an unconscious Robinson.
The immediate fallout ...
Robinson had a concussion and would miss the next 29 games. When he did return on July 29, Robinson proceeded to hit .282/.367/.467 --- darn good numbers but below Robinson's lofty standards and certainly not enough to maintain a a triple-crown pace. "I don’t know how much I left at second base," Robinson said later (source: SABR). "… I haven’t been the same hitter since."
Robinson's painful loss was, of course, Yastrzemski's gain, as he went on to claim the triple crown for the 1967 season with a .326/44/121 campaign. For what it's worth, Robinson at the time of his injury was on pace for the following crown numbers: .337/50/141. So that head injury may have indeed cost Robinson an even larger slice of baseball history.
Robinson had plenty more great baseball left in him, but he never again reached the heights of that 1966-67, pre-concussion stretch. If not for Robinson's relentlessly aggressive style of play, Cabrera might be aiming to match him rather than achieve what no other hitter ever has.