Cabrera takes trophy for second straight year; first for D-backs slugger
ST. LOUIS -- Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera was denied a second consecutive American League Triple Crown this season, but he did manage to repeat for the Hank Aaron Award, and D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt capped a breakout season by earning that honor in the National League, Major League Baseball announced on Sunday.
The two sluggers were honored by Commissioner Bud Selig and the award's namesake in a news conference before Game 4 of the 109th World Series at Busch Stadium. Cabrera appeared in person to accept his, and Goldschmidt provided a video acceptance speech, as he is currently in Australia promoting the 2014 Opening Series there between his D-backs and the Dodgers.
Cabrera followed up his Triple Crown-winning season of 2012 with his third consecutive AL batting title after hitting .348. The eight-time All-Star, who started at third base for the AL at the Midsummer Classic, battled a groin tear late in the season, yet matched his career best with 44 homers (also 2012) and collected 137 RBIs, marking his sixth straight season of 100 or more RBIs for Detroit (and 10th in a row overall), and joining Harry Heilmann (1923-29) as the only players in franchise history to do so.
"It is a great honor," Cabrera said of the award. "I don't expect to win any hardware. I expect to win games, and I hope always to go out there and win championships. We came up short this year, but I think we had a great team. I think this hardware is for my whole team, because without my team, I am not able to put numbers in the field, or to win games on the field. Thank you very much to the Detroit Tigers, my teammates, and the great organization I play with."
Goldschmidt, who was selected to his first All-Star Game in 2013, hit .302 with 36 doubles, 36 homers, 125 RBIs, 99 walks and 103 runs in his second full season with Arizona. The 26-year-old from Texas State University -- he officially graduated last month from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor's of science degree in management -- led the NL in slugging percentage (.551), OPS (.952), extra-base hits (75), RBIs and total bases (332), and he tied for first in homers. Goldschmidt also ranked third in walks, tied for third in runs scored, was fourth with a .401 on-base percentage and tied for 10th in doubles.
"It's just a very big honor just to be mentioned alongside Hank Aaron and other great players in the game," Goldschmidt said. "And I've just got to say thank you to friends and family, and the Diamondbacks organization for giving me the opportunity to play baseball, and of course the coaching staff and front office here. But probably most of all, the teammates here I've had with the Diamondbacks this year. [I] just really enjoyed this year, getting to play with them, and [I] learned a lot from the guys I played with, the guys I played with in the past."
Established in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record with No. 715, the Hank Aaron Award is officially sanctioned by MLB and recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league.
"I want to extend my congratulations to Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt on being selected as the winners of the 2013 Hank Aaron Award, an award named after one of the greatest players in the history of baseball," Selig said. "Miguel completed another stellar season this year, including winning his third batting title. Paul was an offensive force on the Diamondbacks and in the National League."
Fans voted for the award on MLB.com, and for the fourth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron joined fans in voting. The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray and Robin Yount, who combined for 17,629 hits, 8,278 RBIs and 1,723 homers. They were personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to help select the best offensive performer in each league.
"It is a privilege to have the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league named after me," Aaron said. "I want to congratulate Miguel and Paul on their outstanding seasons, and [I want to] extend my thanks to the Hall of Famers and fans who selected the winners."
After the Commissioner read off Cabrera's stats, including the home run total -- one exceeded in the AL only by Chris Davis of Baltimore -- Aaron made a point of mentioning it. He sat between Selig and Cabrera at the dais, and said to Selig, "When you mentioned 44, it reminds me of the number of times I hit No. 44. Forty-four home runs. That was all I could hit. I couldn't hit anymore."
That prompted laughter in the interview room. Actually, Aaron was being humble. Yes, his 755 homers were the result of consistency over a long career rather than 50-plus in any year, but he did in fact exceed 44 twice -- 45 in 1962 and 47 in '71.
Cabrera said he was fortunate to be able to talk hitting with Aaron before this year's ceremony, and he alluded to the Hall of Famer's remarks about his homer total.
"He said he only hit 44 home runs in a year. I think we came short in that," Cabrera said. "You know, I tried to follow his steps. It's very hard, because he's one of the greatest players that ever played this game. He's a great example to us to go out and try to do our best and try to help our team to win games."
Cabrera became the first Tigers player to lead the league in hitting in three consecutive seasons since Hall of Famer Ty Cobb accomplished the feat from 1917-19. The 30-year-old Venezuelan led the AL with a .442 on-base percentage, a .636 slugging percentage and a .397 average with runners in scoring position while tying for first with 37 go-ahead RBIs. Cabrera also ranked among the AL leaders in homers (second), RBIs (second), total bases (second, 353), runs (tied for second, 103), hits (tied for second, 193), walks (third, 90) and multihit games (ninth, 52).
Cabrera has eclipsed the 100-RBI mark in each of his full Major League seasons, and he has hit at least .320 in eight of his past 10 seasons. Last year, the Aaron Award was a precursor for him winning the AL MVP Award, so it remains to be seen whether that will happen again in 2013.
Cabrera probably has a better chance than Goldschmidt of following up his Aaron Award with an MVP trophy. Cabrera's competition figures to be Davis. In Goldschmidt's case, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is expected to be a leading NL MVP Award candidate.
This award was about offensive performance only. Among all Major Leaguers, the right-handed-hitting Goldschmidt tied for first in go-ahead RBIs (37), go-ahead homers (20), walk-off homers (three) and homers after the eighth inning (seven), while tying for most game-winning RBIs (19) and RBIs with runners in scoring position (84).
Goldschmidt, dubbed "America's First Baseman" by his teammates, joined Hall of Famers Mel Ott (1929 and '32) and Eddie Mathews ('53) as the only three NL players to post a .300 average, 35 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 99 walks during their age-25 season or earlier (ages as of June 30 of that season). In addition, Goldschmidt is the 19th player since 1977 to lead the NL or tie for the league lead in homers and RBIs in a single season.
"He proves it day in and day out," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Goldschmidt. "He's everything you could want."
The D-backs' eighth-round Draft pick from 2009 became the ninth player in the past 37 years to lead the NL or tie for the lead in homers and RBIs while hitting at least .300, joining Matt Kemp (2011), Albert Pujols ('10), Ryan Howard ('06), Andres Galarraga (1996), Dante Bichette ('95), Barry Bonds ('93), Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt ('81) and George Foster ('77). Goldschmidt also finished the season on a 19-game hitting streak, so he will try to make it 20 in a row when MLB opens next season in Australia.
Past winners of the award include: Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Jose Bautista and Kemp (2011), Bautista and Joey Votto ('10); Derek Jeter and Pujols ('09); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis ('08); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder ('07); Jeter and Howard ('06); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones ('05); Manny Ramirez and Bonds ('04); Rodriguez and Pujols ('03); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton ('00); and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).