May 21, 2012

The Quest For the Elusive Triple Crown: Could We See Winners in Two Sports This Year?

By - Kyle Malinowski

The Triple Crown.

What sport comes to mind first when this phrase is mentioned?

Horse racing, in which the horse must win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes -- is what most people think of.

However, baseball also has a Triple Crown -- in which a player must lead the league at season's end in homers, RBIs, and batting average.

If you're paying attention to the sports world right now, you may have noticed that we could have Triple Crown winners in both horse racing and baseball this year, with I'll Have Another winning the first two of the three major horse races, and Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers holding a wide margin over the rest of the American League in all three batting statistics.

Photo from:
The real question is though, in which sport is it harder to achieve the Triple Crown -- horse racing or baseball?

Right off the bat, one would probably assume the answer is baseball, because you have to excel at not only hitting home runs and driving runners in, but also maintain an exceptional batting average, whereas in horse racing -- it's just winning three races.

Power hitters and high averages usually just don't go together though. What Josh Hamilton is doing right now is unbelievable, but is it more impressive than what I'll Have Another is trying to do in horse racing?

Purely from a statistical standpoint, there have been 16 players in MLB history who have won the Triple Crown, with Carl Yastrzemski being the last one to accomplish the feat in 1967. And in horse racing, only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, with Affirmed being the last in 1978.

Therefore, from that standpoint -- it would seem that it is harder to win the Triple Crown in horse racing, since it has been accomplished fewer times.

However, it is without question that winning the Triple Crown in baseball has gotten harder since 1967, as hardly any players have had a legitimate chance nearing the end of the season to accomplish the feat.

So in my mind, even though the statistics favor horse racing, I would argue that what Josh Hamilton is trying to do in the American League is truly unprecedented. This is the same league in which he must face the likes of Jared Weaver, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and many other quality pitchers on a consistent basis who can throw filthy stuff.

Verlander, for example, can hit 98 mph on the radar gun -- and then follow that up with a knee-bending 71 mph 12-to-6 curveball.

Therefore, for Josh Hamilton to be dominating in all three categories is just ridiculous, especially when you take into consideration how poorly Albert Pujols is looking against AL pitching.

When Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown back in 1909, it is very unlikely that he had to face even close to the same quality of pitching that Hamilton must face every night.

In addition, Cobb likely didn't have as much competition for someone beating him in one of the three categories as Hamilton does, since baseball athletes of today are tremendously more athletic than they were in Cobb's time.

Cobb hit only 9 home runs when he won the Triple Crown. 9! Obviously, that would never earn him the Triple Crown in today's game.

When assessing the Triple Crown of baseball, one must also consider that -- especially during the steroid era, winning the home run category plus the batting average statistic was nearly impossible with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa belting over 60 home runs a season.

Therefore, this might also be a sign that steroids are largely out of the game when Hamilton hitting 40-50 homers this season will give him a very real shot at the crown.

It should not be discounted either though, that what I'll Have Another is trying to do is just as rare, since only 11 horses have accomplished the feat.

What would truly be amazing -- and what I am personally hoping for, is that I'll Have Another and Josh Hamilton both manage to accomplished the feat. Never has there been a Triple Crown winner in horse racing and baseball in the same year. The sports gods should grant us this spectacle, simply because records are becoming nearly impossible to break.

I've been waiting for years for a baseball player to break Orel Hershiser's scoreless innings streak, or to challenge Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak record, although both seem like they will never be broken.

Listen up sports gods! We all should get to see a Triple Crown winner in our lifetimes -- and I would love to see it happen this year.

The Texas Rangers may not want it to happen though, since winning the Triple Crown would also mean cha-ching for Josh Hamilton and his new deal.

What sport do you think it is harder to win the Triple Crown in? Do you think both will win it this year?

Share your thoughts.


  1. I would say its harder in baseball. A horse only has to win 3 races, while a baseball player would have to be extremely consistent in 3 categories all summer long. But both are really impressive feats for sure.

  2. I think they are equally as difficult, but I would be more impressed to see Hamilton do it because there's no kind of animal involved in it.

  3. This is a no brainer. The triple crown in horse racing is cool and all, but a triple crown in baseball is way more impressive. In horse racing, THE HORSE is doing all the work. In baseball its an actual PERSON doing it.

  4. I think both are great feats, but at the same time, comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges.

    While there's a lot on the jockey/trainer in horse racing, obviously the animal is pulling its fair share of the weight as far as "talent" goes.

    Totally different story in baseball, where the pressure is solely on the player.

    I'm with Kyle though. I'd like to see them both happen. But if I HAD to pick only ONE, I'd pick the Triple Crown in baseball.

    Especially in this instance, because Hamilton is one of my favorite players. Lol