"Do you realize how long, how interminably long, it has been since anyone captured the Triple Crown?That's right. The last Triple Crown winner, Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, achieved the feat in 1967, forty-two years ago now. And to think, this article, written in 1997, was already lamenting the thirty year gap in Crown winners. But we were an optimistic bunch in '97, and there was a lot of hope for a Triple Crown in the near future. Yaz was one of the hopefuls himself:
'Flower Power' was the hippie craze. The Flying Nun and Gomer Pyle, USMC were the top-rated TV shows. And Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, and Frank Thomas, all with a great shot at winning the crown, were not yet born.
"Yaz believes it's 'going to happen, there's no doubt about it. It's going to happen within the next couple of years,' he predicts.Of course, it hasn't played out like that. Expansion and thinner pitching staffs may have played their parts in the offense explosion of the late-'90s (among other things), along with the "late-century fad" of "retro bandbox parks", but they never converged in the form of a Triple Crown. And, actually, they didn't change things all that much. From the 1997 article:
Yastrzemski notes that expansion, thinner pitching staffs and the new, retro bandbox parks that are the late-century fad will continue to shoot batting averages higher and give players a better chance at finally reaching the Triple Crown."
"Since Yaz won his crown, 31 players have captured two-thirds of the trifecta. But of those players, only Joe Torre in 1971 and Al Oliver in 1982 won batting titles.Since 1997, the number of players who have captured two-thirds of the trifecta has increased to 43, and two of those players won a batting title: Todd Helton in 2000 and Matt Holliday in 2007. Helton batted .372 that year with 147 RBIs, but his 42 home runs were good enough for only 7th (Sosa paced the circuit with 50). Holliday led his league with a .340 average and 137 RBIs. His 36 home runs, however, placed him only in 4th (to Prince Fielder's 50). The two Rockies did go a short way to proving Yaz right:
'Winning the home run and RBI titles goes hand in hand many years. A lot of people have done that,' Yaz says. 'Getting that third part is the difficult part. But to be honest, I expected it to happen before now because there's so much talent out there.'"
"Thomas, Vaughn, Bagwell, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza, Yaz says, are hitters who have proved they are capable of achieving the Triple Crown. He also likes the chances of any good hitter who plays in air-thin Colorado. But the player he predicts will win it next is Ken Griffey Jr."Yaz also provided a little bit of context surrounding his quest for the Crown:
"'The big thing was just being involved in the pennant race that year,' Yaz says. 'When I was going for my 3,000th hit (in 1979), we weren't involved in the race and I went 10 or 11 at-bats trying to get that hit.No media attention? To someone born of today's era like me, this just seems impossible to believe. Maybe the Triple Crown just wasn't as exciting at the time. Frank Robinson had won it the year before, and Mantle won it ten years before that (and Williams 9 years before that). That's not really all that rare. At the time, it was happening about as frequently as an NL All-Star victory today: rare, but inevitable.
'But being in the pennant race, I was so focused that I didn't know I had won it until the next day. There wasn't any media attention on the Triple Crown. None whatsoever. It was the first time Boston had been in a pennant race in a long time, and everything and everyone was focused on it.'
Yaz hit .523 with five homers and 16 RBIs during the final two weeks. Over the last two days in a critical series against Minnesota, he went 7-for-8, including a three-run homer that won the game on the second-to-last day."
Whatever the circumstances have been over the last 42 years, the result has been a Triple Crown-less league. Many people have speculated as to why this is - I personally believe that it has everything to do with batting specializations (ie, Ryan Howard-type power hitters vs. Ichiro-type contact hitters) - but, in the end, that's all it is: speculation. Either it will happen, or it won't. There's just too much going on on the baseball diamond to simply explain it away in either case.
In the end, I agree with Yaz. Eventually, it's going to happen (and, boy oh boy, can you expect a lot of press when it does).
"'Things are made to happen. Who ever thought that Pete Rose would break Ty Cobb's record? Who ever thought that Gehrig would have his consecutive-games streak broken by Cal Ripken? Those are tremendous feats by thise guys.I can't wait. Who will it be, though? The smart money is on Albert Pujols, but a player like Joe Mauer (if the current power streak proves to not be a fluke) could easily crack that too. Whoever it is, I want to see it.
'So, yes, I expect another Triple Crown winner. As Ted Williams says, 'No one comes to the ballpark to see someone strike out. They come to see the home run.''"