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ROIT -- Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Buster Posey of the Giants paused from their Game 3 preparations on Saturday at Comerica Park to accept the Hank Aaron Award as the outstanding offensive performer in their respective leagues -- the first time in the presentation's history that both winners were participating in the World Series.
Now the question is whether they also will become the first pair of Hank Aaron Award winners to subsequently win their respective leagues' Most Valuable Player Award in the same year. Both players also are candidates for those trophies when the Baseball Writers' Association of America makes those announcements on Nov. 15.
Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967, leading the American League with a .330 average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs. The Venezuela native became the first Latin-born winner of the Triple Crown. The seven-time All-Star topped the AL with 377 total bases, 84 extra-base hits and a .606 slugging percentage, while he was second with 109 runs scored and 205 hits, fourth with a .393 on-base percentage and seventh with 40 doubles.
"I'm very proud, my biggest day here in baseball," Cabrera said in accepting the trophy. "I want to say thank you to the people in Detroit, to [owner] Mr. [Mike] Ilitch to give me the opportunity and the chance to grow like a player, be here in the World Series, trying to play -- if God led me to play, gave me the chance to be here, I'm trying to go out there every game and do my job."
Posey led Major League Baseball with a .336 average, becoming the first National League catcher to win the batting title since Ernie Lombardi of the Boston Braves in 1942. The 25-year-old Florida State product led the Giants in homers (24), RBIs (103), doubles (39), walks (69), on-base percentage (.408) and slugging (.549).
"Wow. First of all, I'd like to thank the fans, the Hall of Fame panel, and Mr. Aaron voting for me," Posey said, as Aaron smiled. "I'm humbled that Hank Aaron knows who I am. Growing up in Georgia, he's a legend everywhere, but even more so there. It's just humbling. It's a great honor."
Fans voted for the award exclusively on MLB.com, joining a panel of voting Hall of Famers that included Aaron, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount. Those five legends combined for 15,890 hits, 1,643 home runs and 7,281 RBIs.
Established in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the award is officially sanctioned by MLB and has grown in prestige and importance every year.
It was a most unique Aaron Award ceremony, as the winners were brought in one after another rather than the traditional pairing on the head table. The Tigers had taken batting practice first, so Cabrera received his award first. And immediately after he departed, Posey entered from a side door and received his award. Neither player accepted the usual post-ceremony questions, given the urgency of returning them to their pregame preparations.
"I congratulate Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey on earning the 2012 Hank Aaron Awards as the most outstanding offensive players in each league," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Miguel joined historic company this year by winning the game's first Triple Crown in 45 years, and Buster was a consistent force in returning to the field triumphantly this year. Most importantly, Miguel and Buster helped their clubs reach the World Series. I salute them on winning an award named in honor of a pillar of our game, my friend Hank Aaron."
"It is a real privilege to have my name on the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league," said Aaron, who was back at his customary presentation-ceremony seat after being forced to miss last year's while rehabbing after left knee replacement surgery. "I want to congratulate Miguel and Buster on their fantastic seasons and express my gratitude to the Hall of Famers and fans who helped select this year's winners."
Cabrera won his second consecutive AL batting crown, becoming the first Tigers player to lead the league in hitting in consecutive seasons since Hall of Famer Ty Cobb did so from 1917-19. Cabrera, who shifted from first base to third before the 2012 season, has now reached base safely in all 22 of his career postseason games with the Tigers entering Saturday's Game 3, passing the 18-game streak by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg for the longest stretch in franchise history. Cabrera has eclipsed the 100-RBI mark in every full season of his Major League career.
Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who had arguably the best rookie season in baseball history, is expected to be Cabrera's prime competition for the AL MVP Award. Aaron said Cabrera "did everything you could possibly do. ... If anybody is the Most Valuable Player of his league, he certainly is.
"You know, when you win the Triple Crown, you are singled out as being one of the most important parts of a puzzle, maybe the most important part of your baseball team," Aaron said. "He led the league in runs batted in, home runs and batting average. That's not easy to do. I'm not taking anything away from the kid in Los Angeles, but to do those things [Cabrera] did and have the kind of year this young man had, it was just amazing."
A reporter told Aaron that some people today see the RBI as a less significant stat, and Aaron, the all-time RBI leader, snapped back immediately: "Who said that? It is a very important part. When I was playing, that was one thing I wanted to do. I felt like if I left runners on base in scoring position, then I wasn't doing my job. It is one of the most important parts of offense.
"I remember when I first got into the league, Jackie Robinson told me one thing: He said, 'The only way you're going to be important to your ballclub,' he said, 'if you leave home plate and you score or you leave home plate and you bat in runs, that means you have done something to help your ballclub win games.' I always felt that way."
Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner, played in just 45 games in '11 after sustaining a season-ending injury on May 25 of that season, and this Fall Classic continues his spectacular comeback. He ranked among NL leaders in on-base percentage (second), slugging percentage (fourth), RBIs (sixth), multihit games (52, tied for sixth), total bases (291, tied for seventh), hits (178, tied for eighth), doubles (tied for eighth) and walks (10th). Ryan Braun of the Brewers and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates figure to be Posey's chief NL MVP Award competition.
"You know, last year when you got hurt, everybody was saying, 'Is he going to come back?'" Aaron told Posey during the ceremony. "And you came back not only winning the batting crown, but, I mean, hitting .300, but [also] leading your team to the World Series. I want to congratulate you for all you do. It's not easy when you squat behind the plate for nine innings and then go out and hit .300. Congratulations, Buster. Really, I think you had an outstanding season."
Past winners of the Aaron Award include Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011), Bautista and Joey Votto ('10), Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols ('09), Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis ('08), Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder ('07), Jeter and Ryan Howard ('06), David Ortiz and Andruw Jones ('05), Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds ('04), Rodriguez and Pujols ('03), Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02), Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton ('00) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).
There have been three previous times when one of the Hank Aaron Award recipients was participating in that same World Series, but never both: Jeter in 2009, Manny Ramirez in '04 and Bonds in '02.
"Isn't that something?" Aaron said. "It just means these young men coming into baseball today are a little bit ahead of us 20 years ago."