Check out our old pal Joe Sheehan on the Triple Crown:
“Triple Crown” is one of those phrases that has an tinge of antiquity to it, like the word “mitt” or referring to “base ball” or the mythical creature called the “doubleheader”. Leading the league in the traditional “big three” categories of batting average, home runs and RBI just isn’t done any longer. No baseball fan under 50 has a memory of seeing a Triple Crown, the last being achieved by Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. For three players — Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Carlos Gonzalez — to be making a run at the Crown is highly unusual.
To some, the lack of Triple Crown winners in modern baseball is, like the lack of complete games or the decline in contact hitting, a sign that today’s players lack skills that their forefathers did. As with those issues and a host of others, the reasons have more to do with evolution and math than they do any change in the character of baseball players. It’s harder to lead the league in three categories now because it’s harder to lead the league in any one category now. The baseball Triple Crown went from an achievement that happened now and again to a rarity the minute baseball expanded past eight teams per league. The table at right shows the relationship of league size to Triple Crown winners.