DETROIT -- When identifying the best of the best of the 2012 Major League season, the conversation has to start with Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers third baseman made history when he captured the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967, steadily maintaining an offensive tear that ended with an American League-leading 44 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .326 batting average. Although top performances were turned in by a slew of breakthrough players in 2012, nothing apparently beats the Triple Crown, and for that reason, Cabrera was a worthy recipient of two offensive GIBBY Awards: MVP and Hitter of the Year. He was presented with the awards during a pregame ceremony before the Tigers-Blue Jays game at Comerica Park on Wednesday.
The GIBBYs (Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards), which have been handed out by MLB.com to A-list ballplayers for 11 years, honors the greatest players, moments, managers and feats during a season. The panel of voters is expansive, involving media, front-office personnel, Major League alumni, fans who log on to MLB.com and experts from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
The list of what Cabrera accomplished in 2012 is lengthy. The easier question might be -- what didn't he do?
In addition to turning in the best numbers in the three most coveted categories, Cabrera was also tops in the American League with 377 total bases, 84 extra-base hits and a .606 slugging percentage. He was second in the AL with 109 runs scored and 205 hits, fourth with a .393 on-base percentage and seventh with 40 doubles.
He's driven in more than 100 RBIs nine years in a row and is only the third Tiger in history to do so in at least five straight seasons.
"I think everybody's pretty much acknowledged by the awards he's gotten that he's the best," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's a tribute to him. We're awful proud of him for all that he's done and how he's handled everything and the player he is. I guess you could get some arguments -- and I'm not looking for those -- but I'd say he's the most respected hitter in the American League. I think that pretty much sums it up."
Looking back at the year he had, Cabrera admits the run was "amazing," but he also remembers having an overwhelming sense of relief when he officially secured the Triple Crown on the last day of the season.
"I could relax for a little bit, and say, 'Finally, it's over,'" he said.
Historic achievements, after all, don't just affect the player. When a star player is creeping toward a record or a significant milestone, everyone is involved; most significantly, his teammates and manager, who are tasked with not only keeping things at a level pace, but talking about it every day with the media.
"With all of the people talking, finally it was, 'We made it,'" Cabrera said. "All my teammates, everybody helped me to win that."
The GIBBYs are unique in that they recognize greatness from both the regular season and the playoffs, whereas other official Major League awards that are handed out are for top performances in the regular season. GIBBY voting began in early November, and the winners were announced about a month later at the Winter Meetings.
Cabrera was the only player to win two awards. The World Series champion Giants led all teams with four winners.
The best part of the GIBBYs may be how far-reaching and clever the categories are. Sure, a block of awards wouldn't be complete without the standards: MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and so on. But hey, this is the Internet. Space is unlimited -- so why shouldn't the awards be?
Remember Mike Trout's amazing full-out sprint and over-the-wall catch that robbed J.J. Hardy of a home run in Baltimore last June? GIBBY-worthy -- as in Play of the Year.
There was also Storyline of the Year, which resulted in a tie between the upstart Orioles' season and the dominant Nationals' run to the NL East title. And who could forget the cheeky Cut4 Topic of the Year, which went to Bryce Harper and his "That's a clown question, bro" exchange with a reporter?
Clearly, the GIBBYs has a little something for everyone. Fortunately for Cabrera, there's room for both: new-age recognition and the old standards. As the vote totals showed, Cabrera is a classic.