Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hits a two-run home run in the seventh inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Hamilton hit four home runs during the game to become the 16th player in MLB history to make the accomplishment. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The Rangers outfielder is leading the American League in the traditional Triple Crown categories. An ESPN poll Sunday night said he "will" win it. Do you agree, Baseball Nation reader?
Josh Hamilton had a pretty good week. Maybe you heard.
In the Rangers' two series this past week against the Orioles and Angels, comprising seven games, Hamilton hit .467/.529/1.433 (no, that's not a typo -- that's a one-point-four-three-three slugging percentage) with nine home runs and 18 RBI in 30 at-bats. At one point he had eight home runs in 17 at-bats. Hitting eight home runs in 17 games is impressive. Eight homers in 17 at-bats is otherworldly.
Currently, Hamilton is hitting .402/.455/.866, with 18 home runs and 44 RBI. He's leading the American League in all those categories, prompting ESPN during Sunday night's game telecast to ask viewers whether Hamilton will win the traditional Triple Crown (batting average, home runs, RBI).
83 percent of those voting said "yes".
Really? Really? That poll didn't ask if he "could" win the Triple Crown, it asked whether he "will" win it.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Rangers are just 35 games into a 162-game season (about 22 percent of the way along), did those poll voters have any idea just how hard it is to win that traditional Triple Crown?
No one's done it since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox in 1967 -- 45 years ago. And there simply haven't been many players who have even come close in that time span. Here's a list of some that did, but fell short in one category:
1972: Dick Allen led the AL in HR and RBI, finished third in BA
1972: Billy Williams won the NL BA title, finished third in HR, second in RBI
1992: Gary Sheffield won the NL BA title, finished third in HR, fifth in RBI
1995: Dante Bichette led the NL in HR and RBI, finished third in BA
1997: Larry Walker led the NL in HR, finished second in BA, third in RBI
2009: Albert Pujols led the NL in HR, finished third in BA and RBI
2010: Miguel Cabrera led the AL in RBI, finished third in BA, second in HR
That list isn't intended to be comprehensive -- I might have missed some other close calls -- but it does show how difficult a task it is to win these three categories in the same season.
Yes, I know that the baseball Triple Crown measures merely the numbers you see on TV screens when players come to bat (though some TV channels have begun to use OBP and other measures as well). They're numbers that are well known to the general public, and the fact that this imaginary title hasn't been won in 45 years does make it a matter of interest if someone gets close, or gets off to a monster start as Hamilton has.
The primary reason, I think, that this hasn't been done in so long is the specialization of hitting. Most power hitters sacrifice batting average. Many high-average hitters do so because they hit lots of singles, although power hitters Cabrera and Hamilton have accounted for the last two AL batting-average titles. To me, It's more interesting to wonder whether that ".402" currently next to Hamilton's name might be there at season's end. He's locked in right now and playing in a great hitter's park. Could he be the first player in 71 years to hit .400 or better in a full season?
First, let's have our own vote. Dear Baseball Nation reader, what say you? Will Josh Hamilton win the Triple Crown? Vote in the poll below.
Will Josh Hamilton win the Triple Crown?
Yes (225 votes)
No (481 votes)
706 total votes