Beat the Streak leader elects not to make pick
Allowed to delay quest for $5.6 million prize, Brown's chase halted a day
Two-thirds of Major League Baseball teams were off Thursday, and so was Aaron Brown, the Beat the Streak extraordinaire who is 12 picks away from winning the game's $5.6 million grand prize.
The 2013 season marks the first time in BTS history in which Streakers can pass on making a pick on a given day. Brown opted to skip Thursday, even though his go-to guy, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, faced Twins starter Scott Diamond, against whom the slugger owns a .526 career batting average (10-for-19).
One of those hits -- a two-run homer to left field in the first inning Thursday -- could have boosted Brown's run from 45 to 46. But without the benefit of hindsight, the 30-year-old decided to sit this one out after careful consideration.
"There were a few factors that went into me not making a pick [Thursday]," the Sterling Heights, Mich., resident said. "First one was weather here in Detroit -- with it raining all day and chance of rain at night, I didn't want to take the chance of the game getting called early with Cabrera only getting a few chances to bat.
"Secondly, I was going to play Adam Jones, but I'm concerned about his right leg that's bothering him, so the odds weren't high there either. Lastly, not many other matchups were appealing to me today … I just didn't feel comfortable making a pick today."
And with the finish line coming into the horizon, Brown has found his approach to be especially meticulous.
"Early on in this process, I never would have thought twice about my picks," Brown said. "I believe I started out by making picks for three to four consecutive days and then checking back in a few days. Now, I'm paying more attention to the matchups every day and questioning my decisions more than I should."
Historically speaking, what Brown has accomplished thus far is remarkable. His streak is tied for the fifth longest in BTS history, just four picks behind the all-time leader, Mike Karatzia, who made 49 straight picks in 2007. Brown's streak is also the longest since 2011, when Steven Summer was on the mark 48 times in a row.
"Well I'm pretty happy with that accomplishment," Brown said of his run into BTS lore. "But I also realize that I still have a long ways to go -- 12 [more picks] is a lot."
Brown's 45th consecutive correct BTS pick was made Wednesday, when he predicted that Cabrera would tally a hit against the Indians. The reigning American League Most Valuable Player came through right away, recording his 50th RBI of the season on a first-inning double to left field off Cleveland right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. The slugger did not stop there, adding an eighth-inning home run for good measure.
"It helps you relax a little easier at night when it happens that quick," Brown said Wednesday night.
Cabrera, who last season became the first big leaguer in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, is again a legitimate threat to lead the AL in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Cabrera was ahead of all Major League hitters by a wide margin with a .391 average and 55 RBIs, and his 14 home runs ranked one behind the Junior Circuit's long-ball leader -- the Orioles' Chris Davis.
"I'm really starting to run out of words to describe him -- I'm just glad I get to watch him play for [my favorite] team every night," Brown said of Cabrera. "I remember watching Tony Gwynn always hit for a high average, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. hit for power and RBIs when I was growing up. It's unbelievable to see Miggy do all three with such high success."
Brown may not be able to smell the grand prize just yet -- he's 78.9 percent there -- but his olfactory senses could kick in soon.
"I feel the same now as I did when I started Day 1 -- just hoping to pick the right matchup and be lucky 57 times," Brown said.
In extending his streak to 45 on Wednesday, Brown returned to the well that has proved so fruitful during his run, picking Cabrera for the 20th time in 45 tries.
Of his 45 correct picks, Brown has called on a player from his hometown team 60 percent of the time. Cabrera -- having come through on 20 occasions -- has been the biggest contributor by far. Fellow Detroit masher Prince Fielder has left his mark as well, keeping Brown alive six times. Torii Hunter has also chipped in, coming through during his one and only opportunity to assist.
"Those guys are amazing to watch and their work ethic is remarkable," said Brown of the Tigers in an email to MLB.com, which often reaches out to BTS players once they approach 40 games, in an effort to shed some light on who they are and how they pick.
Through Beat the Streak, participants try to establish a virtual "hitting streak" by picking one or two big leaguers per day, with their run continuing as long as their selections collect at least one hit in that game. Nobody has matched Joe DiMaggio's magic number of 56, set in 1941, but on average, three per season reach 40.
So far this year, only two contestants -- Brown and Michael Ray of Brenham, Texas -- have reached the 40-pick plateau. Ray made 43 straight correct picks before his streak came to a close. Several Streakers, however, have a chance to join the exclusive club in the coming days.
If he can make 12 more correct picks without a miss, Brown will win more money than most will earn in a lifetime. But how difficult is it to record a run that long? Maybe not as hard as one might imagine.
There have been 21 Major League hitting streaks of at least a dozen games in 2013. Cabrera is on that list -- his longest is 12.
"[Cabrera's] work ethic is tremendous, and he is the best hitter in the game," Brown said. "His transition to third base after Prince arrived has been remarkable, and the city of Detroit just loves his attitude and effort. I think the best thing about his game is that he's always smiling and having fun. He realizes that he is playing a game and enjoys being out there every day."
Brown has certainly benefited from Cabrera's consistency. During his run up the BTS ladder, his selections had hit a collective .380 (71-for-187). In other words, he is picking nearly as well as Cabrera is hitting. But the $5.6 million question is: Can Brown be the first Joe D. in BTS history?
That answer will have to wait.
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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.