For Detroit Tigers fans, the time is nearly here.
Detroit Tigers hitting machine Miguel Cabrera stands merely five knocks away from baseball immortality. The coveted 3000 Hits Club is sitting there waiting to coronate Cabrera as it’s newest member. It’s been a long road for the to get here, and one worthy of celebration.
After five more hits it will be time to remember the homer off Roger Clemens in the 2003 World Series after Clemens buzzed his tower. It will be time to celebrate the shocking blockbuster trade orchestrated by Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch at the Winter Meetings that brought Cabrera to Detroit. The legendary duel with Mariano Rivera in the stadium. Remember the 11 All Star Games, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2 MVP Awards, and the renowned Triple Crown in 2012.
All those awards and moments bring to mind the skill and maestro-like presence he showed throughout his career. The incredible grace with which he swung the bat to drive the ball into the opposite field bleachers. The brutish power he could flash to drive missiles into the pull field seats. The adjustments he could make to pull his hands in and loop a liner into the outfield when a mere single was needed. Quite simply, there was no major skill to hitting where he didn’t show absolute mastery.
Cabrera will also be talked about for the joy he brought to the ball field nearly everyday. The friendly banter at first base with anyone who just hit a single, the running discourse with opposing catchers like Salvador Perez, the fun with fans near the on-deck circle, and the laughs with teammates in the dugout. All Cabrera trademarks every bit as much as a double up the gap.
Cabrera has been on the wind down phase of his career for nearly six seasons as his numbers have faded, his modest speed has disappeared, his health has declined, and his impact as a player has been marginalized. His mighty string of 13 consecutive seasons with an OPS+ between 130 and 190 a distant memory.
All of that sounds sad. In some ways it is. The legacy contract he took from Ilitch was always ticketed for a bit of a rocky finish. It’s just the natural progression that swallows up nearly all players in due course. The body no longer impervious to injury and the reflexes just a hair slower than before. Age almost always wins.
However, Cabrera is a link to the recent past of consistent winning in Detroit. Paired with Justin Verlander, Cabrera made baseball an event in Detroit each summer during the peak of his illustrious career. Cabrera’s exploits as a supreme batsman will reverberate in the minds of Tigers fans for decades.
We’ve seen the journey up close to get here. The baby-faced phenom in Miami, the move to Motown, the young adult with well documented legal run-ins, the comeback to straighten his life out and commence being the best hitter in the sport, and finally dealing with the aging out process which still included the milestone moments.
Cobb, Greenberg, Kaline, Whitaker, Trammell, Kell, Horton, Gehringer, and others. This is the list of Detroit’s elite hitters through the decades. The list now includes Cabrera…and indeed it might be very close to the top.
It should only take a few more days to get these five hits for 3000. The celebration it sets off won’t truly rest until Miguel Cabrera is one day inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What a grand ride it’s been…