Losing Miguel Cabrera for a Few Games Might Be a Positive for Detroit Tigers


Miguel Cabrera watched Tuesday’s game in an uncharacterstic spot: the dugout. Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As my colleague, Garret Craig, so eloquently stated, we here at Motor City Bengals hope for nothing but a speedy recovery and quick return to the lineup for Miguel Cabrera.

Despite missing only his second game of the season on Tuesday, the news was good off the field. Cabrera said his hip injury, which forced him out of the Monday’s game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago during the fifth inning, was feeling better. Following the Tigers’ 6-2 victory last night, Jim Leyland completely ruled out a DL trip for the slugger. He said it was possible Miggy could play either tonight or Thursday afternoon, but not both–and possibly neither.

No one wanted to see Cabrera go down with an injury, but if he had to do it, missing a couple games against the Chicago White Sox is not the worst thing in the world.

When Chicago visited Detroit prior to the All-Star break, they were very un-White Sox-like. They fielded well, torched Tigers’ pitching, and managed to escape Comerica Park by winning two of three games.

Through the first two games of the four-game series in the Windy City, the White Sox look more like themselves–committing seven errors, while scoring just five runs on 10 hits. Is it worth rushing Cabrera back while playing a sputtering Sox team?

Miggy missing time does not help his Triple Crown chase, but it may not be a bad thing to have him unavailable for a couple more days. Everyone is aware of the Tigers’ offensive struggles in late innings. While many chalk up the Tigers’ 10 losses in the first half when leading in the seventh inning to bullpen foibles, the inability to score late is also a culprit.

Special players often come along only once in a generation for a franchise. Barry Sanders was in his fourth season with the Detroit Lions in 1993. He had not even reached the peak of his career yet, but was the Lions’ focal point. The putrid quarterback rotation (Rodney Peete, Andre Ware and Erik Kramer) knew they didn’t have to be great to win games as long as they had Barry in the backfield. Even if he was bottled up for most of the game, one long, dazzling run could turn the game around in a heartbeat.

Barry Sanders missed several games the last time the Detroit Lions won a division title, causing the team to find new ways to win. Credit: Mitchell Layton USA Today

The only injury Barry suffered in his 10-year career was a knee injury on Thanksgiving 1993. He missed the final five games of the regular season, forcing the Lions into figuring out other ways to win. It worked. The Lions went 3-2 without Sanders and won the NFC Central (their most recent division title).

Cabrera, like the rest of the Tigers, has struggled in the seventh inning and beyond. He has an average around .260 in late innings. Perhaps Miguel is putting too much pressure on himself, believing that most of the time the offense is incapable of rallying late, and it’s all up to him. Conversely, the rest of the team may think “well if I can’t get the job done, certainly Miggy will.”

Since he left the game on Monday night, the Tigers have scored nine runs (spanning 13 innings). Certainly the bonehead White Sox plays have helped, but the Tigers haven’t always been able to capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes, even with Cabrera in the lineup. Perhaps the rest of the lineup realized they didn’t have Cabrera to pick them up (or attempt to pick them up).

Detroit characteristically did not score in the seventh through ninth inning on Tuesday, but the game was not in doubt–up 6-0 following the sixth inning. But they did score in the seventh (one run) and ninth (three runs) in a closer game on Monday.

So while no one wants to see Miguel Cabrera miss a long stretch, a few games will not be too detrimental. If anything it will remind them that they are a good team without Miggy, and a great team with him.

By the way, the Tigers (55-44, 3.5 GA) are FINALLY 11 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season after going 0-8 in games played while 10 games over. Doing it without their best player for nearly two games is a very good thing.