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Cabrera claims third Tiger of the Year Award

DETROIT -- This MVP award was never in doubt for Miguel Cabrera.

For the third time in five seasons in Detroit, Cabrera has won the annual Tiger of the Year Award. The slugging third baseman was a unanimous selection by members of the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Cabrera and Justin Verlander have been alternating winning the award since 2008, Cabrera's first season in Detroit. The last Tiger other than those two to win it was Magglio Ordonez in 2007, the year he won the American League batting title and finished runner-up in MVP balloting to Alex Rodriguez.

Cabrera won his first AL batting crown last year, but couldn't top Verlander's dominant season. Verlander not only won Tiger of the Year, but AL MVP and Cy Young honors.

Now, Cabrera will try to pull the same combo. His chances look very good.

Until this season, Ty Cobb was the only Tiger to pull off a Triple Crown, and he did it 103 years ago during the dead-ball era with just nine home runs. No Major Leaguer had done it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

A torrid closing stretch pulled it off for Cabrera, finishing his regular season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. No Tiger, not even Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, had posted a season with at least 200 hits, 44 homers and 139 RBIs.

Beyond the statistics, Cabrera's move from first base to third to open a defensive position for Prince Fielder resonated in Detroit. It wasn't exactly a major sacrifice for someone who loved playing third base during his days with the Marlins, but the work he put in during Spring Training showed how seriously he approached the change.

With almost universally low expectations going in, Cabrera held his own at the hot corner, including several quick reactions to snare line drives and a selection of diving stops to steal hits. His minus-11 rating, according to Bill James Online, was better than either of his seasons at third base with the Marlins.

In many ways, it was a more historic season in Tigers annals than Verlander's 2011 campaign. More Tigers had won the pitching Triple Crown than the hitting version, and Denny McLain won an MVP award in 1968 to go with his back-to-back Cy Young honors.

Verlander might yet repeat his Cy Young Award this year; results will be released next week. However, he wasn't going to pry a Tiger of the Year vote from Cabrera.

Cabrera's third Tiger of the Year victory ties him with Alan Trammell and Cecil Fielder for the franchise record. The award has been in place since 1965. Fielder was the only one to win his awards in a shorter span, taking three in a row from 1990-92.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander