Baseball is a team game, and as with all team games, we're constantly told that the team stands above all else. You can't let individual stats get in the way of the greater good, we're told, because that runs counter to everything we've ever been taught about team sports.
But when I see how the Detroit Tigers are handling Miguel Cabrera's abdominal injury, I get the funny feeling that the Tigers are not putting the team first. From where I'm sitting, I can't see a good reason why Cabrera isn't on the disabled list after leaving his second consecutive game with abdominal discomfort.
After all, the Tigers hung on to beat the Indians, their closest rival in the American League Central, and moved to 7 1/2 games in front of Cleveland on the last day of August. Coolstandings has the Tigers' playoff odds at 99.4 percent, which means they should be focused on getting ready for October, which means getting all of their players healthy as they try to finally win the World Series title that has eluded this current group ...
... Oh, wait! I think I just thought of a reason why Cabrera isn't on the disabled list: the Triple Crown.
As you probably know, in 2012, Cabrera become the first player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown, and since he leads the AL in batting average and RBIs and trails Chris Davis by just four home runs, he stands a reasonable chance of becoming the first player to win back-to-back Triple Crowns.
Count me among those who thinks RBIs are overrated and batting average isn't that indicative of a player's impact, but that doesn't mean the Triple Crown isn't cool. It is. And I can understand why Cabrera would want to make history and why the Tigers would be trying to help make it happen. That said, it's an individual accomplishment, one that has more to do with trivia than anything else, and if the Tigers are resisting the urge to put Miggy on the DL because of his quest for the Triple Crown, it's bad business. (As an aside, he's already all but locked up the AL MVP, which would be a nice consolation prize.)
It's entirely possibly that this is a minor injury, one that Cabrera would need to play through if the Tigers were in a close race. The thing is, they aren't, and the benefit of building a big lead is that you get to rest your players leading up to the postseason. So as great as it would be if Cabrera won another Triple Crown, he and the Tigers need to take a step back and shut him down for a week or two in the interest of the team, because it's obvious this injury is bothering him.
I can't prove this, but I'd wager that Cabrera -- as well as all of his Tigers teammates (not to mention their fans) -- would trade that Triple Crown for a different result in the 2012 World Series.