The National League Triple Crown and Most Valuable Player Award are up for grabs in these final 20 days of the season.
No National League player has won the Triple Crown since Medwick in 1937, when Landis, for whom the MVP Award is named, was the commissioner. That three guys, let alone one, have a shot at the first NL Triple Crown in 73 years leads to four conclusions:
Just how hard is it to win the Triple Crown? Since
Here's a better way to appreciate the difficulty of a Triple Crown. Only two active players have won a
In the NL, only four players have won a career Triple Crown since Medwick in 1937:
That is only four guys in 73 years, given their entire career to lead in all three categories. So what does it take to do it in the same season? Talent and luck.
The closest Triple Crown winner since Yaz was
The Steroid Era didn't help make the Triple Crown any easier because home run thresholds rose. Nine of the 14 home run titles between 1996 and 2002 were won with at least 50 home runs -- a number that no one has hit over the past three seasons.
(Talk about old school:
One reason why Triple Crowns are so rare these days is expansion. Pujols faces more competition than Medwick simply because there are more teams, meaning more players. In 1937, 64 players qualified for the NL batting title. This year the number is 73 (not including Omar Invisible). Yaz had 45 competitors for the batting title in 1967.
But the rise in talent is even more important than the increase in teams. The 20th best hitter today, for instance, is far and away better than the 20th best hitter in 1947. A great hitter had a better chance of standing apart from the crown then than now.
The late Harvard professor and author
Now players come from all over the world and are better trained to play baseball. So Pujols, who was born in the Dominican Republic, competes with Gonzalez, who was born in Venezuela, who competes with Votto, who was born in Canada.
That three players could compete for a Triple Crown in the same season is highly unusual, but also demonstrates that a Triple Crown may not be as elusive as we think. The idea of three players chasing .400 in the same season, for instance, sounds much more fanciful.
Meanwhile, even if a 73rd year passes in the NL without a Triple Crown, we are guaranteed a great MVP race. That drama, like the NL pennant races, should go down to the last weekend.