The highest players make a manager want to alter the principles. Specifically, one rule: that pesky requirement for a lineup, which mandates that every hitter take his turn. When Miguel Cabrera is in your team, the waiting is the toughest part.
“I wish he could have come to bat every inning,” said Jack McKeon, 91, on the phone this week from his home in North Carolina. “He’d hit a sacrifice fly, he’d hit a house run, he’d get a base hit, even to the purpose where he hit the bottom ball that what’s-his-name booted within the Bartman game. He was the catalyst. Something good was happening with this guy.”
Cabrera was 20 years old, playing for the then-Florida Marlins, when his bouncer flummoxed Chicago Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez within the fateful sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The error helped turn Steve Bartman — a fan who deflected a foul ball down the left-field line earlier within the inning — from a footnote to a focus because the Marlins stormed to the World Series with wins in Games 6 and seven.
On the time, Cabrera had collected only 84 profession hits within the regular season. On Saturday, with a single against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park, he became the thirty third player in major league history with 3,000.
After he belted three hits on Wednesday to get to 2,999, Cabrera’s pursuit of three,000 was delayed by an 0 for 3 performance on Thursday (and an intentional walk late in the sport), in addition to rain postponing Friday’s scheduled game against Colorado.
The feat finally got here in the primary inning of Saturday’s afternoon game when Cabrera singled off Antonio Senzatela, a fellow Venezuelan. Rockies shortstop José Iglesias, who played with Cabrera on the Tigers, got here over to hug his former teammate because the Tigers ran onto the sphere to great him as well. Moments later, Cabrera went behind home plate to have fun along with his mother, wife, son and daughter.
The 2022 M.L.B. Season
A season that was unsure is suddenly in full gear.
“I feel I’m still dreaming,” Cabrera told reporters after the sport. “To have the option to see 3,000 up there, pretty special.”
Cabrera added a two-run single in the underside of the sixth inning for hit No. 3,001 and was subsequently removed for a pinch-runner. The group at Comerica Park gave him a raucous ovation and the Tigers ended up beating the Rockies, 13-0. He then added No. 3,002 with a single within the second game of a day-night doubleheader, which Detroit lost, 3-2.
“I used to be like, ‘Get it done today,’” Cabrera said, acknowledging the frustration of waiting a couple of extra days for 3,000. He added: “I’m completely happy I hit it here. I’m completely happy for the people of Detroit to see it.”
Back in 2003, the primary hit of Cabrera’s profession had been fitting: a two-run, game-winning home run in the underside of the eleventh inning on June 20, 2003, in Miami Gardens, Fla. He now has 502 homers, making him one among the rare players to look on two of baseball’s most prestigious lists.
Only six others have amassed 3,000 hits and 500 home runs: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Of that group, Cabrera has the most effective batting average (.310) and on-base percentage (.387).
Cabrera’s figures will change, and really likely decline, before he retires; he’s signed with Detroit through 2023. But for now, they underscore Cabrera’s skill as a pure hitter. He will not be a free swinger, exactly, but his aim is to hit his way on base. Only two players with 500 homers (Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks) have fewer profession walks.
Cabrera won 4 batting titles in a five-year span, from 2011 through 2015. Only two other right-handed hitters within the integrated major leagues, Roberto Clemente and Bill Madlock, have collected 4 batting titles. As great as they were, neither Clemente nor Madlock ever hit 30 homers in a season. Cabrera has done it 10 times.
Cabrera was 16 when the Marlins signed him from Venezuela for $1.9 million in 1999. 4 years later, with the Carolina Mudcats, he tore through the Class AA Southern League with a .365 average and a .609 slugging percentage in 69 games — yet he played mostly third base, and Mike Lowell was established in Miami.
That didn’t worry McKeon, who had taken over as manager in May. His team had some promising young pitchers but needed more thump within the lineup. McKeon would discover a place for a bat like Cabrera’s.
“I knew he couldn’t play third because we had Mike Lowell, but I’ll put him within the outfield — don’t worry about it, we’ll discover,” McKeon said. “And he took to left field like no person’s business.”
Cabrera had played only three games within the minors in left field, but he began there each day in his first week within the majors. In October 2003, McKeon shifted Cabrera to right field. He had never played that position, but began there for seven of the Marlins’ last 10 postseason games, on their solution to a World Series victory over the Yankees.
Cabrera’s at-bat in the primary inning of Game 4, in Florida, foreshadowed the greatness to return. Roger Clemens fired a first-pitch fastball at 94 miles an hour, high and inside, a classic brushback from a self-styled gunslinger. Cabrera stared back at Clemens, hung in for seven pitches, and drilled one other 94 m.p.h. fastball — up and off the plate — over the fence in right-center field.
“It didn’t scare the guy,” McKeon said. “He wasn’t intimidated. This guy was confident and knew he had the flexibility to do it.”
For the subsequent 13 seasons, Cabrera would show it with remarkable consistency and sturdiness. He got here to bat greater than every other major leaguer from 2004 through 2016 — and produced at the best rate, too. Of the 104 players with at the very least 5,000 plate appearances in those seasons, Cabrera had the most effective on-base plus slugging percentage: .968.
He did most of his damage with the Tigers, who traded six players for him and the left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis in December 2007. Two of the players — outfielder Cameron Maybin and the left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller — would have long careers. However the deal was a coup for the Tigers, who would win 4 consecutive division titles and an American League pennant in Cabrera’s prime.
Within the afterglow of his 2012 triple crown season, the Tigers rewarded Cabrera with an eight-year, $240 million contract that will not begin until 2016. The deal was an overreach; Cabrera’s production inevitably declined, and he has been roughly a league-average hitter the last five seasons. The Tigers fell within the standings and are still rebuilding.
However the contract, if nothing else, ensured that Cabrera’s milestone moments would occur for the Tigers, the team that benefited most from the promise he showed at age 20. McKeon never altered the elemental rules of baseball, in fact, but he sure was right about Cabrera.
Something good, indeed, was happening with that guy.