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."

NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch

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NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch

No access at Gillette? No first-round pick unless the Patriots make a swap into the latter stages of the round? No problem. We're all over it from the palatial offices here in Burlington. We go pick-by-pick through the first round.

Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Mike Tomlin had to be a little bit miffed when he saw the Bengals take Williams Jackson III with the No. 24 pick. The Steelers needed a corner in the worst way, and their division rival took the top available player at that position one slot ahead of them. Credit Pittsburgh for sticking with its plan if it works out, though. Burns is a corner who has all the traits you could ever want -- length, athleticism, ball skills -- but he's going to need work on his technique if he wants to slow down AJ Green twice a year. 

Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

He may not be ready to start right away, but the Broncos knew what they were doing when they traded up. Lynch is a big-armed quarterback who at 6-foot-7 has enough athleticism to be able to roll out and make throws on the run -- something that will be asked of him in Gary Kubiak's offense. Mark Sanchez still may be Denver's best bet in Week 1, but if Lynch even approaches his potential in Year 1, he could see some starter's snaps. 

Packers: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

He's not built like BJ Raji, but Clark will help fill left the void Raji left behind when the veteran defensive tackle walked away from the game this offseason. A strong player who hasn't yet turned 21 years old, Clark has all kinds of upside to offer Mike McCarthy's defense. 

49ers: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford

The Niners traded up to this spot, leading many to believe that they'd go after a quarterback. Connor Cook, perhaps? Instead they made the oh-so-flashy move to lock up a guard. Garnett had a lot of success in Stanford's pro-style offense playing alongside left tackle Kyle Murphy. Garnett is a machine in the running game and should be a longtime starter. 

Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Arizona came into the draft pretty well-set offensively so adding an explosive presence on the interior like Nkemdiche helps make them a more well-rounded roster. He has plenty of off-the-field concerns, but if he can keep his head on straight, this will represent great value for coach Bruce Arians and Co. The Patriots offensive line will have its hands full Week 1 with Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell to worry about. 

Panthers: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech

The Panthers could've used a corner or a receiver. A defensive end might've made sense, too. Instead, they went after this big-bodied monster. Weighing in at over 320 pounds, Butler handles his weight well and should be able to help collapse opposing offensive lines at the next level. A defense that was already very good just got a little better up front. 

Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

The Seahawks (and quarterback Russell Wilson) can breathe easy as they escape the first round with some much-needed offensive line help. There are some questions as to where Ifedi will play on the line -- is he a guard or a right tackle? -- but his length and overall athleticism should help him turn into a building block in the trenches.

Stars, studs and duds: 'Emotional' loss for Celtics

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Stars, studs and duds: 'Emotional' loss for Celtics

BOSTON – As players came and went, Isaiah Thomas sat in his locker stall, head covered with a towel. Assistant coach Jerome Allen, hand on Thomas’ back, tried to console him.

Evan Turner soon came by with words of encouragement.

One by one, players came by to try and lift up the spirits of their best player, looking very much like a funeral procession.

In many ways it was a fitting image as the Atlanta Hawks put the final nail in the coffin of the Celtics’ season by handing Boston a 104-92 Game 6 loss.

And as Thomas took to the podium along with teammate Jae Crowder, there was no way to mask the pain he was feeling, knowing the Celtics’ season was over in part because of how Atlanta’s defense managed to limit his effectiveness in Games 5 and 6.

“Yes, it’s very emotional for me, just because we gave it our all,” said a blood-shot eyed Thomas. “We never put our head down, like I said this group of guys is something special. I mean I played, I gave it my all so that’s why it hurts that much more. I wish I could have done more, but it just happened to be like that. So it is tough on me, though.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Game 6.

 

STARS

Kent Bazemore

He didn’t put up big numbers in Game 6 (15 points, four rebounds), but he was solid as ever and was really Atlanta’s most reliable player at both ends of the floor through the entire series.

Paul Millsap

He was not a major focal point in Game 6, but came up with a bunch of big buckets when they needed to make a play. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jonas Jerebko

He finishes the season as a starter for Boston, delivering the kind of play that will make him a player to watch next season. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting which included him scoring the first five points for Boston.

Kyle Korver

He didn’t take a ton of shots but he made the most of his opportunities in addition to doing a solid job on the boards and defensively. Korver had 14 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.

 

DUDS

Isaiah Thomas

He had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists. His 25 points was a game high, although it came on 9-for-24 shooting which included missing six of his seven 3-point attempts. He put up big numbers, but they weren’t high impact, difference-making points – something the Celtics desperately needed from him.

Evan Turner

The Celtics really needed him to deliver a big-time scoring/playmaking kind of game in order to take some of the pressure off Thomas. Turner had just eight points (his first game in the series when he failed to score in double figures) and only had four assists. He didn’t have a bad game per se, but in an elimination-type game they needed more – much more – from Turner.

Jared Sullinger

Game 6 was a microcosm of this entire playoff series for Sullinger who once again was a non-factor scoring the ball as well as rebounding. He finished with two points on 1-for-5 shooting along with grabbing just four rebounds. 

With season over, time for Celtics to hit recruiting trail

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With season over, time for Celtics to hit recruiting trail

BOSTON - So the Celtics are a first-round exit for the second straight season.

And if you watched any of their losses, it comes down to the most basic of reasons just why that is: they couldn't score.

In a game they needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Celtics shot 36.2-percent shooting from the field. It was even worse at halftime, as they could only muster up 33 points on 27.7-percent shooting from the field.

It's no secret that the C's won many of their games by outworking the opponent. They scratch, claw, and out-want the opponent, as cliche as all of that sounds. But it's true. When it comes to sheer talent, this hasn't been a team near the top.

Tack on a few key injuries and that became very apparent against the Hawks.

But all of that can be fixed this offseason, as Boston has a ton of cap space, a ton of draft picks and assets, and a young team that appears to be one or two players away from getting to that upper echelon, especially in the East.

So it's time for Isaiah Thomas and Co. to get out the "Why Playing for the Boston Celtics is Great" handbook (By Danny Ainge, presumably) and start knocking on doors.

So, what's their pitch?

"Our fans are amazing. This city is a sports town," Thomas said. "I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. When you do get to experience what Boston Celtics basketball is like, it’s like no other organization. As long as we keep getting better, hopefully guys will start to choose Boston as a city they want to play in.

Jae Crowder, who shared the podium with Thomas, shared his same feelings too.

"I think the same thing. It speaks for itself. The fans, the city and what it’s about," Crowder said. "Tradition [is] there, everything is there. We’re winning. We’re a young group that loves to win and go out there each and every night. We let that take care of itself."

One of the many reasons this loss hurt so much for this particular group is because they really came together. Just about every player in the locker room mentioned the camaraderie amongst themselves, and how hard that can be for an entire locker room to have. But it was easy to see that translate on the court as they stuck together and fought back from many deficits. It was also refreshing to see a team of players who weren't shy to speak candidly about what they needed to see from one other on the court, and that was led by Thomas.

“This team, we’re a team," Marcus Smart said. "One thing for sure that we’re going to do is always fight every game. And I think everybody likes to play with guys that are going to fight and compete every game.”

So let's see . . . fans, check. City, check. Tradition, check. Accountability, check. Team unity, check. It sounds like the Celtics are ready to hit the recruiting trail.

But Brad Stevens, though not asked the same question, may have offered one more reason a big-name free agent would want to take his talents to Boston: the will to get better.

"I think that from a big-picture perspective I feel good about our progress," Stevens said. "We have great opportunities to move forward with our future flexibility. And I think that over time, though [Thursday] is sour and you have a sour feeling about it, this will make guys more encouraged to get in the gym. I mean, this is – for young guys, sour’s not all bad, right? Because it’s like me, I’m going to go home and watch what I can do different. I know that. And I hope that our guys feel the same way. They need to take some time off, but after that, let’s get better.”