Miguel Cabrera has been hailed as the best player in the game of baseball right now. In fact, some are saying the slugger is the best in baseball period. Ever.
That assumption is a little premature. Cabrera is only 29 years old, and no one knows what the future holds for this current one-man wrecking crew. For now, though, I think it is safe to say Cabrera is one phenomenal player. He is a team player, always has a smile on his face, and knows what his job is, and he does it with almost relative ease.
Since coming to the Tigers via a trade in December 2007, Cabrera has electrified not only the Detroit Tigers faithful, but fans in every park. As he becomes more lethal to opposing pitchers with every swing of the bat, managers and players alike hate to play against him, but they all admit they love watching him play.
With all the excitement and hoopla surrounding Cabrera, there were times of doubt and despair as well. Lingering issues of Cabrera’s off-field behavior brought into question whether he would interfere with helping the Tigers reach their ultimate goal, a World Series Championship.
In 2009, with the Tigers fighting hard for a spot in the post season, Cabrera went on a drinking binge following a game with the White Sox … with members of the White Sox. Several drinks and a blood alcohol level of .26 later, Cabrera was arrested for a domestic disturbance at home.
To make matters worse, Cabrera went 0-11 in that pivotal series with the Sox, and the Tigers lost the one-game playoff with the Minnesota Twins. Needless to say, the Tigers, and their fans, were not very happy with “Miggy.” To his credit, Cabrera spent about 90 days in outpatient rehabilitation for his drinking and came back better than ever the following season.
Then it happened again. Shortly before the start of last season, Cabrera found himself at odds with the law. And like the time before, it had to do with his drinking. It was not a high point for the organization, Cabrera, or the fans who again felt betrayed by their superstar.
I am certain that between the Tigers, Major League Baseball, and Cabrera himself, he was able to get the help that he needed. Rising from that incident, Cabrera had a great 2011.
Coming into this season, Cabrera was in great physical and mental shape. Opting to move to third base from his usual first base perch, so the Tigers could sign Prince Fielder, Cabrera proved the critics wrong that he could not handle such a move.
There were a few errors scattered about during the season, but whatever mistake Cabrera made on the field, he more than made up with his bat.
Ending the regular season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 runs batted in, Cabrera clinched the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it with the Boston Red Sox in 1967. This is a feat that has only been accomplished 14 other times before. Great players captured this title, but think of those that never did: Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron and many others.
The Kansas City Royals were gracious to Cabrera. The fans cheered, the players applauded, and they, like the Detroit Tigers and their fans, celebrated this rare occasion. It was more than a simple moment for a player and his team. It was a moment for baseball.
As champagne was flying all around the clubhouse following the Tigers’ clinching of their second consecutive Central Division Championship, Cabrera remained largely out of sight. Even though the team had non-alcoholic beverages for him Cabrera stayed holed up in the manager’s office or outside the locker room with his family as he did not want to be tempted with the evils that could have (or still can) ruined his career. Once composed, he joined the party, but his actions speak volumes as to how seriously he seems to be taking the problem that he faced and will probably face his entire life.
And that is what makes this accomplishment all the more endearing. As a Tigers fan, but even more importantly, for his family and himself, I hope his past troubles are behind him.
Cabrera deserves the spotlight for this brief moment of time. And hopefully that light continues to shine in the postseason and when he receives that MVP award that he undoubtedly deserves.