There is no question that his actions last fall were an embarrassment to the Detroit Tigers. By staying out all night on a drinking binge, only to wind up in jail after an altercation with his wife, Miguel Cabrera brought upon himself all the shame and loathing Tigers fans bestowed on him.
That’s all in the past.
In the months since that fateful morning, Cabrera has, by all accounts, turned his life around. He’s stopped drinking, he’s become a visibly more open, and happy person.
He’s also raised his game on the field. (more after the jump)
As impossible as it may seem, Cabrera, a now five-time all-star, is having his greatest season at the plate. When he came to the Tigers prior to the 2008 season, Cabrera had already compiled 138 home runs and 523 RBI, he did all of that in just four-and-a-half seasons in the big leagues. Since the start of the 2008 season, no American Leaguer has belted more homers than Cabrera’s 93.
A career .311 hitter coming into the year, Cabrera is currently leading the majors with a .346 average, his 77 RBI is also tops in baseball and his 22 home runs are just two behind the league leader, Jose Bautista.
On top of that, Cabrera is leading the league in slugging, he’s second in on base percentage, and is leading the league in OPS. His 64 runs scored ranks tops on the Tigers and third in the league. He’s second in doubles, second in total bases, and fifth in hits. He also leads the league in Win Probability Added and Adjusted OPS+.
This season has already seen four no-hitters, five if you count Armando Galarraga. There is no question that baseball is a pitching-dominated sport this season. Yet, through all the great pitching performances, Cabrera stands poised to challenge for a triple crown, a feat no one has accomplished since 1967.
So tonight, Cabrera will be announced as a starter for the American League. He’ll do so only because of an injury to Justin Morneau, but it’s a deserved honor none the less. It will be the first start of Cabrera’s all-star career, but it won’t be the last.
Tonight, Cabrera, along with Tigers teammates Jose Valverde and Justin Verlander, will have a chance to show the world just how good they are. The folks who follow the Tigers are already well-aware. For years Cabrera has been considered a poor man’s Albert Pujols. He hasn’t gotten the recognition for being a great player until now.
Despite his past successes, Cabrera has toiled in relative anonymity while putting up huge numbers. You could blame that on the fact that the smaller markets that he has played in have lent themselves to keeping Cabrera’s talent a secret. You could blame Cabrera, who has never been one to show his personality to the media, or you could blame the feeling that as good as he was, there always seemed to be room for improvement in Cabrera’s game.
Whatever the reason, be it the lack of drinking, an increase focus, or simply the maturation of a still young man, Cabrera is showing this year that he is not only the best right handed hitter in the American League, he might just be the best hitter in all of baseball, Pujols or not.
And tonight, at the All-Star Game, the whole world will be watching. This could be the night Cabrera truly becomes a star among stars. My friends, we have been watching greatness personified for three years in Detroit, even as it seems like the rest of baseball has barely noticed.
Cabrera is batting third, in the heart of a stacked AL lineup, and if can impact this game the way he has impacted nearly every Tigers game this year, the rest of the world will finally know his greatness as well.