If Cincinnati's Joey Votto wins the baseball lotto with the Triple Crown, I will advocate building Votto his very own grotto.
Likewise, if Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez, continues to go, go, go right up to Triple Crown-ville, I will be so glee-filled I will help (if he wants) CarGo plan a trip to Key Largo.
|It's possible Carlos Gonzalez could high-five his way to the Triple Crown. (AP)|
Minnesota's Joe Mauer? Won't happen in this year but, if he learns how to crack 'em over the fence at Target Field, is it too late to make reservations for the 2011 bandwagon?
We long ago sucked everything out of the home run. The records. The drama. The interest. Vitamin S drained the homer of its nutrients to the degree that when Alex Rodriguez walloped his 600th earlier this summer, everyone hit the snooze button and rolled over.
What's left, in the way of cool accomplishments?
Well, someone hitting .400 would be way cool, but that's nearly impossible anymore.
A nimble hitter taking a run at Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak would be ravenously riveting.
In this latter-day Year of the Pitcher, a mound man emulating Johnny Vander Meer's 1938 feat of chucking no-hitters in consecutive starts would be tripping the light fantastic. But the list is long this summer of pitchers whose encores failed to produce a Vander Meer: Roy Halladay, Dallas Braden, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jiminez. ...
A 30-game winner? It would be breathtaking -- especially if, unlike Denny McLain, it would come without the man being jailed for embezzlement later in life -- but that ship has sailed. No, not McLain's time on ice. In these days of five-man rotations, 34 or so starts is the most we can expect out of a league leader. To win 30 of those? I don't think so.
Which leaves, on the check list of the game's coolest things ... the Triple Crown.
On the day after Labor Day in the National League, the leaderboard was filled with wondrous possibilities:
It's enough to make a guy dream back to 1967 -- the last time a man won a Triple Crown (Carl Yastrzemski, Boston).
It's also enough to make a guy dream back to 1937 -- the last time a man won a Triple Crown in the NL (Ducky Medwick, St. Louis).
The fact that it's been 43 years tells you that the odds of one of these men -- Votto, Pujols, Gonzalez -- finishing first in each of these three categories is worse than that of three cherries (or lemons, or mangos, or whatever) lining up in the window when you pull the lever on one of those one-armed bandit slot machines.
|Rank, Player||Avg.||Rank, Player||HR||Rank, Player||RBI|
|1. Gonzalez||.340||1. Pujols||35||1. Gonzalez||100|
|2. Votto||.321||3. (tie) Gonzalez||32||2. Votto||98|
|8. Pujols||.308||3. (tie) Votto||32||3. Pujols||97|
|Through Tuesday; Mark Reynolds also has 32 HR|
"It's a little bit like golf and Tiger's pursuit of 18 or 19 majors," says Padres bench coach Ted Simmons, who spent much of the summer of 1975 dueling for the NL batting title with the Cubs' Bill Madlock before coming up short (Simmons' .332, with St. Louis, was good for second, behind Madlock's .354). "There are some very, very talented people you have to compete with all the time. It's difficult to even win one of those things.
"I remember my pursuit of the league batting championship. The last two weeks of the season I look around and Bill Madlock is out there. You could in theory have even two of the three in your back pocket, but one eludes you."
A career-long 0-for-18 drought last week helped knock Pujols to 31 points behind Gonzalez in the batting race.
Gonzalez has surged in the Triple Crown (and other) categories thanks to a 13-game hitting streak (entering Tuesday's game in Arizona), during which he's hitting .529 with six homers and 16 RBI.
Votto has been Mr. Consistent and that, combined with Cincinnati's first-place standing, probably has him leading the NL MVP race.
"He might be the toughest out in baseball right now," Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin says of the lefty-swinging Votto.
Pujols has the advantage in both experience (10 years) and intimidation.
"Hell yeah," Reds manager Dusty Baker says when discussing whether a Pujols mired in an 0-for-18 slump simply makes the manager more worried than the odds of the slugger causing destruction increase.
Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes says that while winning a Triple Crown is obviously exceptionally difficult, he thinks that it's far more within reach than hitting .400 or challenging DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.
"Flip a coin," Lopes says. "Hitting .400 or 56, neither of those is likely to happen."
The longest single-season hitting streaks since DiMaggio, who accomplished his 56 in 1941, are Pete Rose's 44-gamer (1978) and Paul Molitor's 39-gamer (1987).
The highest batting average since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 is Tony Gwynn's .394 during the strike-shortened season of 1994. To this day, Gwynn thinks he was zoned in enough then to have hit .400 had the season not ended in early August because of the strike.
Since McLain went 31-6 in 1968, no pitcher has won more than 27 games in a summer. Philadelphia's Steve Carlton did it in 1972 and Oakland's Bob Welch reached that total in 1990.
Which is most likely to happen?
A Triple Crown winner
A .400 hitter
A 30 game winner
A 56 game hitting streak
Total Votes: 9,459
When Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez was 15-1 at the All-Star break, he projected to have 15 second-half starts. He did not project to go 15-0 -- for a 30-1 season -- except maybe in the mind of the most cockeyed optimistic of Rockies' fans.
So as the pennant races wind down and the October anticipation level ratchets up, what we're left with in the way of individual accomplishments is the intrigue of the NL boppers chasing the ghosts of Yaz and Medwick. We've seen this fool's gold before. We've been teased, only to be left wanting.
"Absolutely, it's possible," Lopes says. "You get this close, and as good as those guys are, it's possible. It's highly unlikely, but possible."
Here on September 7, with a 26-day sprint to the wire remaining, possible works.
"The game is level again," Hall of Famer Dave Winfield says. "I like to see the pitchers doing what they're doing. I like to see guys stealing bases.
"It means something now."
It sure does. In the aftermath of the game's Beer League Softball days, when overbulked sluggers roamed the earth and terrorized pitchers with routine tape-measure homers, balance is back. And nothing would speak to the balance demanded in today's game -- hitting for power, hitting for average, speed, smarts -- than going Back to the Future with a Triple Crown winner.
So go, go, CarGo. Make the competition blotto, Votto. Prince Albert, put that Triple Crown in a can.
I'm pulling for you. All of you.
Or, at least, one of you.