The best players make the manager want to change the rules. Specifically, one rule: that annoying lineup requirement, which forces each hitter to take a turn. When Miguel Cabrera is on your team, waiting is the hardest part.
“I wish he’d come hit every run,” Jack McKeon, 91, said on the phone this week from his North Carolina home. “He hit the sacrificial fly, he was hitting the house, he was going to get a baseball hit, right up to the point where he hit the ball he named at Bartmann. It was the catalyst. Something good was going on with this guy.”
At the age of 20, Cabrera was playing for the then-Florida Marlins, when his guard stunned the Chicago Cubs short Alex Gonzalez in the fateful sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The foul helped turn Steve Bartman — the cheerleader who cashed a foul ball down Left streak earlier in the game – from bottom hem to pivotal point as the Marlins stormed to the World Championships with wins 6 and 7.
At the time, Cabrera had only collected 84 career visits in the regular season. On Saturday, alone against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park, he became the 33rd player in Major League history with 3,000.
After collecting three hits on Wednesday to reach 2,999, Cabrera’s quest for 3,000 delayed Thursday’s 0-for-3 performance (and a deliberate walk late in the game raised some eyebrows), plus rain delaying Friday’s scheduled game against Colorado.
The feat finally came in the first half of Saturday’s afternoon game when Cabrera picked fellow Venezuelan Antonio Cinzatella. Roque’s short Jose Iglesias, who played Cabrera on the Tigers, came to hug his former teammate while the Tigers ran onto the field to impress him as well. Moments later, Cabrera went behind the house platter to celebrate with his mother, wife, son and daughter.
2022 MLB Season
The season that was in doubt became suddenly on high alert.
Cabrera added a two-stage single at the bottom of the sixth inning for hit number 3,001 and was later removed for the pinch runner. The crowd at Comerica Park gave him a standing ovation, and the Tigers, whom he had carried so much over the years, ended up winning the Rocky Mountains, 13-0. He added the number 3002 with a single score in the second game with a double header, Day and Night, which Detroit lost, 3-2.
“I was like, ‘Get it done today,'” Cabrera told reporters of his 3000th hit after the first game.
He added, “I’m glad I hit it here. I’m glad Detroiters see it.”
Back in 2003, Cabrera’s career first hit was fitting: a two-time home run and won the game in the bottom of the eleventh inning on June 20, 2003, in Miami Gardens, Florida. The game, making him one of the rare players to have appeared on two of baseball’s most popular rosters.
Only six others have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Of that group, Cabrera had the best batting average (.310) and base percentage (.387) before Saturday’s games.
Cabrera numbers will change, and are likely to decline, before he retires; He’s signed with Detroit until 2023. But for now, they’re emphasizing Cabrera’s skill as a pure hitter. It’s not a freestyle slingshot, exactly, but its goal is to force its way into the base. Only two players with 500 homeowners (Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks) have fewer career paths.
Cabrera won four batting titles in a five-year period, from 2011 through 2015. Only two right-handed hitters in the Integrated Grand Slam, Roberto Clemente and Bill Madlock, have captured four batting titles. As great as they were, neither Clemente nor Madlock hit 30 wreckers in a single season. Cabrera has done it 10 times.
Cabrera was 16 years old when the Marlins of Venezuela signed him for $1.9 million in 1999. Four years later, with the Carolina Mudcats, he tore up the Southern AA, averaging 365 and 609 slowdowns in 69 games – yet he played mostly Third base, and Mike Lowell was established in Miami.
That didn’t worry McKeown, who took over as director in May. His team had some promising young shooters but they needed more hits in the lineup. McKeon will find a place for a racket like the Cabrera.
“I knew he couldn’t play third because we had Mike Lowell, but I’m going to put him on the court – don’t worry about that, we’ll find out,” McKeown said. “He left the field like nobody’s business.”
Cabrera only played three games on the left field, but he started there every day in his first week in the majors. In October 2003, McKeon turned the Cabrera into the right field. He never played that position, but started there for seven of the Marlins’ last 10 post-season games, en route to winning the World Championship over the Yankees.
Cabrera’s at-bat in the first half of Game 4, in Florida, foreshadowed the coming greatness. Roger Clemens fired a fastball from the first court at 94 mph, high and inland, a classic shot from a gunslinger. Cabrera stared back at Clemens, hung for seven pitches, and dug another 94mph fastball—up and off the board—over the fence in the right center field.
“You didn’t scare the guy,” McKeown said. not afraid. This guy was self-confident and knew he had the ability to do it.”
In the next thirteen seasons, Cabrera will appear with remarkable consistency and durability. He came for the racket more than any other major player from 2004 through 2016 – and also produced at the highest rate. Of the 104 players who appeared in at least 5,000 games in those seasons, Cabrera had the best base player as well as a slowdown: 0.968.
he did Most of the damage done to tigers, who traded six players for his favourite and left bowler Dontrelle Willis in December 2007. Two of the players – centre-back Cameron Maybin and left-handed bowler Andrew Miller – had two long careers. But the deal was a coup for the Tigers, who would win four consecutive Major League titles and a MLS banner at Prime Cabrera.
In the wake of the 2012 Triple Crown season, it was tigers Cabrera was awarded an eight-year, $240 million contract that wouldn’t start until 2016. The deal was overkill; Cabrera’s production inevitably declined, and he’s been nearly the league’s hit average for the past five seasons. The Tigers fell out of order and are still rebuilding.
But the contract, if nothing else, ensures that Cabrera’s standout moments will happen to the Tigers, the team that has benefited most from the promise he showed at the age of 20. McKeown never changed the basic rules of baseball, but he sure was right about the Cabrera.
Good thing, in fact, was going on with that guy.
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