Cabrera first since '67 to grab Triple Crown

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Cabrera first since '67 to grab Triple Crown

From Comcast SportsNet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Miguel Cabrera had just achieved baseball immortality, and everyone around him knew it.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland had tears welling in his eyes. General manager Dave Dombrowski kept trying to remind people to stop and enjoy the moment. Prince Fielder simply shook his head in disbelief at the history that had unfolded.

Less than an hour earlier, in the midst of Detroit's otherwise meaningless 1-0 victory over Kansas City, it had finally become official: Cabrera had won the Triple Crown.

"Everybody said to me it was unbelievable. They were all excited to see this, enjoy this, be a part of something big," he said, taking the rare feat in stride better than anyone.

Cabrera finished the regular-season hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs, leading the American League in all three statistical categories, making him just the 15th player to achieve the Triple Crown and the first since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

"I've managed a lot of players, managed some great ones, but I've never seen anything like this," Leyland said. "When you're sitting back and it's over with, people are talking about Miguel Cabrera, the rest of the world will have no idea who his manager was, but I will."

Among those in one of baseball's most exclusive clubs are Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson, who called it "an incredible accomplishment for a gifted young man, and Miguel should be proud of his all-around excellence and consistency throughout the season."

Cabrera's achievement wasn't assured until the Yankees pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in their 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Granderson had homered twice to reach 43 for the year, tied with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and one shy of the Tigers' third baseman.

The closest competition in the race for the batting title was Angels rookie Mike Trout, who remains Cabrera's toughest competition for the AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader in RBIs.

"When he's over the plate, he can do anything. He's the best hitter in the game," Trout said. "I think his approach, the way he battles with two strikes -- you leave one pitch over the plate that at-bat and he's going to hit it. He had an unbelievable year."

Perhaps befitting one of the game's reluctant superstars, Cabrera had retired to the visiting clubhouse after he was removed from Wednesday night's game in the fourth inning.

He watch his milestone become official on the television screens perched in the middle of the room, surrounded by Fielder, reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander and a few other teammates.

"He's the best right-handed hitter in the game, the best teammate, the most humble person I know," Fielder said. "Anyone who wins the Triple Crown, he's awesome, man. He's the best."

Commissioner Bud Selig offered his congratulations, calling the Triple Crown "a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history."

The crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave Cabrera a standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out in the fourth but remained in the game, allowing Leyland to remove him with two outs in the bottom half of the inning to another standing ovation from thousands of appreciative fans.

Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, and then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet, almost sheepishly acknowledging the crowd.

"It was like playing at home, having all the fans cheer for you," Cabrera said. "It was an unbelievable feeling, and I was very thankful for the fans in Kansas City."

Cabrera's pursuit of history has occurred largely in the dark, overshadowed by thrilling playoff races, the sheer enormity of the NFL -- even the presidential election.

An event that in other years might dominate headlines has been mostly cast aside.

"The entire baseball world should be here right now," Verlander said.

Perhaps part of the void has to do with Cabrera's very nature.

He's not the boisterous sort, never one to crave attention. He would rather hang out with a couple of buddies than stand in front of a pack of TV cameras, answering the unending stream of questions about what makes him one of the game's most complete hitters.

"That's one of the main reasons we're still playing, because of how good he is and what he does for the ball club," Dombrowski said. "He doesn't like to talk about himself, as anyone who knows him is aware. I think our success helped him in that regard."

To put his feat in perspective, consider horse racing's Triple Crown.

The last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year was Affirmed in 1978, more than a full decade after Yastrzemski's magical summer in Boston.

Whether it's on par with Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters, Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships in golf, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Brett Favre's consecutive games streak at quarterback is open to interpretation, and perhaps some bar-room debate.

Those who have witnessed it firsthand certainly have their opinions.

"It's pretty amazing," said the Royals' Alex Gordon, who watched the drama unfold from his spot in left field. "Honestly, his numbers are like that every year. He has a great average, great home runs, great RBIs. He's a guy who can pull this off, and it's great for the game."

Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval said he was particularly proud that the Triple Crown would be accomplished by a fellow Venezuelan. Cabrera is from Maracay, along the Caribbean coast.

"I'm excited for the country and for the fans that support us every single day. It's a big deal in Venezuela right now," Sandoval said. "It's exciting, especially because of all the things that have happened in his career."

Yes, it seems that every fairytale these days carries a troublesome footnote.

In Cabrera's case, it stems from spring training last year, when he was involved in a drunken-driving incident. According to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla., Cabrera refused to cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared them to shoot him.

The Tigers have been careful to keep him from having to discuss his personal life, but by all accounts, Cabrera has been a model player ever since. This year, he's the Tigers' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player "who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."

"This clubhouse wouldn't be quite as good without him," Leyland said.

While the Triple Crown belongs to Cabrera, the MVP award is still up for grabs.

On one hand, Cabrera dominated the statistical categories favored by traditionalists, the ones that count toward the Triple Crown. On the other hand, Trout was a cut above for champions of new-school baseball thought, those who use more obscure measures such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that are designed to judge a player's overall contribution to a team.

Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said it would be "a shame" if Cabrera didn't win the league's most coveted award. Royals manager Ned Yost earlier offered a similar sentiment.

"I think they're both fantastic players, tremendous players, both of them," Yost said, "but if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, he has to be the MVP, absolutely."

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.