I'd prefer to see Cabrera play
As Miguel Cabrera closes in on the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski achieved the feat for the 1967 Red Sox, it's only fitting that his last big decision of the 2012 regular season should be measured against the example set by the guy who preceded Yaz in left field at Fenway Park.
Before Miggy and Detroit manager Jim Leyland determine if he'll play in the season finale against Kansas City on Wednesday night, they need to sit down and ask themselves a simple question: What would Ted Williams do?
Williams, of course, set the standard for future batting champions in 1941 when he disdained having his batting average rounded up to .400 and went 6-for-8 in a doubleheader on the final day to finish at .406. It was the first .400 season since the Giants' Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930 -- and a threshold that hasn't been reached since.
As Leigh Montville writes in his wondrous biography "Ted Williams,'' the Splendid Splinter decided to play, in part, because he was oblivious to the historical stakes. "If I'd known how much it was going to mean, I would have thought about [sitting out] a lot more,'' Williams said in later years.
I say Cabrera should go out, put up a nice 3-for-4 and clinch this thing with an exclamation point. To sit on a batting race lead over Mike Trout on the final day won't diminish his accomplishment by any great degree. But suiting up and winning the batting title on the field enhances it immeasurably. You wonder, looking back, if Jose Reyes and other hitters who took an alternate route might do it differently if they had another opportunity.
George Brett, Pete Rose, Tony Gwynn and Albert Pujols would have played, and Cabrera deserves to be mentioned in that elite company. Who knows? By taking his hacks -- and taking his chances -- Cabrera might give those tortured American League MVP voters just a little something extra to think about.
No big deal if Cabrera doesn't play
A year ago, then-New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes won the National League batting title with a .337 mark, but certainly created some controversy on that final day when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a bunt single, then quickly left the game (and eventually New York), protecting his lead over eventual MVP Ryan Braun. I didn't particularly like what Reyes did. We'd all heard stories of Ted Williams winning a batting title 70 years earlier with six hits in a last-day doubleheader, but Reyes didn't diminish his accomplishment. He earned the title fair and square.
Similarly, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers has had a wonderful season, one which should end up with him getting the AL MVP Award (though I would vote for Mike Trout, sorry), and if he ends up with the Triple Crown, he has certainly earned it. It's possible Trout and Josh Hamilton have monster Wednesdays to deprive him of it, but Cabrera sitting out Wednesday's regular-season finale wouldn't be quite the same as what Reyes did, because the playoffs are pending for Detroit. Even if they weren't, facts are facts: "Diminish" is a harsh word, connoting a loss of prestige. That doesn't belong in this case. I'd prefer Cabrera play on Wednesday because it's a joy to watch him hit, but he's already appeared in 160 games. How can anyone ask for more?
Look around the game and the playoff teams are sitting their stars in advance of the weekend, whether they can affect seeding or not. Tigers manager Jim Leyland says it's Cabrera's choice to play, but really, Leyland should make this easier and do what he wants. Discussion is not needed. Cabrera wouldn't diminish anything if he sits the finale out, because he's done enough. He's earned these numbers. Perhaps it's not the way we'd end our seasons, but let's focus on the positive.