Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers reaches 3,000 hits

The very best players make a manager want to change the rules. Specifically one rule: the annoying requirement for a lineup that requires each batsman to take his turn. When Miguel Cabrera is on your team, the wait is the hardest part.

“I wish he could have come to beat every inning,” Jack McKeon, 91, said on the phone this week from his North Carolina home. “He had hit a sacrificial fly, he had hit a home, he wanted to get a base hit, even to the point where he hit the ground ball that his name started in the Bartman game. He was the catalyst. Something good happened to this guy. . “

Cabrera was 20 years old and played for the then Florida Marlins when his bouncer got Chicago Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez in 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 earlier in the inning – from a footnote to a focal point as the Marlins stormed into the World Series with victories in games 6 and 7.

At the time, Cabrera had only collected 84 career hits in the regular season. On Saturday, with a single against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park, he became the 33rd player in Major League history with 3,000.

After securing three hits on Wednesday to get up to 2,999, Cabrera’s chase of 3,000 was delayed with a 0 for 3 performance on Thursday (and a deliberate walk late in the match that raised some eyebrows), as well as rain that delayed Friday’s planned fight against Colorado.

The feat finally came in the first round of Saturday afternoon’s match when Cabrera appointed Antonio Senzatela, a Venezuelan. Rockies shortstop José Iglesias, who played with Cabrera on the Tigers, came over to hug his former teammate as the Tigers ran onto the field to also magnificent him. Moments later, Cabrera went behind the home plate to celebrate with his mother, wife, son and daughter.

“I think I’m still dreaming,” Cabrera told reporters after the match. “Being able to see 3,000 up there, pretty special.”

Cabrera added a two-run single at the bottom of the sixth inning for hit No. 3,001 and was subsequently removed for a pinch-runner. The crowd at Comerica Park gave him a fierce ovation and the Tigers ended up beating the Rockies 13-0. He then added No. 3,002 with a single in the second game in a day-night double-header that Detroit lost, 3-2.

“I thought, ‘Get it done today,'” Cabrera said, acknowledging the frustration of waiting a few extra days for 3,000, adding, “I’m glad I hit this. I’m glad people in Detroit are seeing it. “

Back in 2003, the first hit of Cabrera’s career had been appropriate: a two-race, battle-winning homerun at the bottom of 11. inning on June 20, 2003 in Miami Gardens, Florida. He now has 502 homers, making him one of the rare players to appear on two of baseball’s most prestigious lists.

Only six others have collected 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Of that group, Cabrera has the best batting average (0.310) and at the base percentage (0.387).

Cabrera’s figures will change, and very likely fall, before he retires; he has signed a contract with Detroit through 2023. But so far, they emphasize Cabrera’s abilities as a pure batsman. He’s not a free swinger, exactly, but his goal is to make his way to the base. Only two players with 500 homers (Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks) have fewer career walks.

Cabrera won four batting titles in five years, from 2011 to 2015. Only two other right-handed batsmen in the integrated major leagues, Roberto Clemente and Bill Madlock, have collected four batting titles. No matter how good 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 bought him from Venezuela for $ 1.9 million in 1999. Four years later, with the Carolina Mudcats, he tore through the Class AA Southern League with an average of 0.365 and a 0.609 turnout in 69 games – yet played for mostly third base, and Mike Lowell was established in Miami.

That did not worry McKeon, who had taken over as manager in May. His team had some promising young pitchers, but needed more thumps in the lineup. McKeon would find a place for a bat like Cabreras.

“I knew he could not play third because we had Mike Lowell, but I want to put him in the field – don’t worry, we’ll find out,” McKeon said. “And he took to the left field as nobody’s case.”

Cabrera had only played three games in the minors in the left field, but he started there every day in his first week in the majors. In October 2003, McKeon Cabrera switched to the right field. He had never played that position, but started there in seven of the Marlins’ last 10 postseason games on his way to a World Series victory over the Yankees.

Cabrera’s blow in the first round of Game 4 in Florida heralded the coming greatness. Roger Clemens fired a fastball on the first pitch at 94 miles per hour, high and inside, a classic brushback from a self-styled gunman. Cabrera stared back at Clemens, hung in seven lanes and teased another 94 mph fastball – up and off the plate – over the fence in the right midfield.

“It did not scare the guy,” McKeon said. “He was not intimidated. This guy was confident and knew he had the ability to do it.”

For the next 13 seasons, Cabrera would show it with remarkable consistency and durability. He came to beat more than any other major league from 2004 to 2016 – and also produced at the highest speed. Of the 104 players with at least 5,000 record appearances this season, Cabrera had the best base plus slugging percentage: 0.968.

He did most of his injury with the Tigers, who traded six players for him and left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis in December 2007. Two of the players – outfielder Cameron Maybin and left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller – wanted long careers. But the deal was a coup for the Tigers, who would win four consecutive division titles and an American League pennant at Cabrera’s best age.

In the aftermath of his 2012 triple crown season, the Tigers rewarded Cabrera with an eight-year, $ 240 million contract that would not begin until 2016. The deal was an overhaul; Cabrera’s production inevitably declined and he has been pretty much a league average hitter the last five seasons. The Tigers dropped in the standings and are still in the process of rebuilding.

But the contract, if nothing else, ensured that Cabrera’s milestone moments would happen for the Tigers, the team that benefited most from the promise he made at the age of 20. Of course, McKeon never changed the basic rules of baseball, but he was certainly right about Cabrera.

Something really good happened to that guy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.