A postcard perfect spring day in Detroit. More than 37,000 Detroit Tigers fans at Comerica Park chanting, “Mig-gy! Mig-gy!” And Miguel Cabrera wasting no time as he sent the third pitch he saw of the day into right field for a single, the 3000th hit of his career.
Maybe we all ought to thank Yankees manager Aaron Boone for calling for the intentional walk of Cabrera in the eighth inning on Thursday. It doesn’t get much better than this.
It’s been a long lull, Tigers fans. Sure, last year’s unexpected push for .500 might have been fun, but this season has a little different feel to it already, doesn’t it?
Baseball fans in Detroit have been waiting — impatiently at times — but the excitement’s back in Motown.
So I couldn’t help but think back to the winter day in 2007 that Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Tigers.
It came a season removed from the unexpected run to the World Series in 2006. The club had signed Gary Sheffield, then potentially on a Hall of Fame career path, only to cough up the AL Central lead in the final two months of the year and miss a return to the playoffs.
It was disappointing after all the fun of the year before. But the Tigers had prospects. They had an owner in Mike Ilitch whose passion was reawakened.
So when talk of 24-year-old Miguel Cabrera’s availability occurred he asked then-GM Dave Dombrowski if he thought it was possible, in a story retold by the Detroit Free Press. Then he gave him the green light to do what he could to make it happen.
The rumors came out of nowhere at the Winter Meetings that December and on Dec. 7 news of a deal jolted through the baseball world. Two of the Tigers’ top prospects, along with several others, were bound for Miami.
A young superstar was set to come north to Detroit.
I wrote about it that night after a day of substitute teaching. Upon further review, massive celebrations was the title of a post you can still find via the Wayback Machine.
“With their actions the Tigers have stated they are a team at the upper tier, with upper tier financial backing. They have smart management to go with this. This makes it more clear than ever before, they’re the Big Boys now,” I wrote, unable to contain the excitement of the moment.
I may have been off by a few years on my prediction of when everything would come together. 2008? Disappointment. 2009? Block that year out of memory.
But during a run from 2011-2014, the Tigers were one of the winningest teams in MLB, winning the AL Central four years in a row, making the ALCS three times, the World Series once.
It wasn’t because of Cabrera alone, but you can’t help but think that the past 15 years would have played out so much less exciting without him.
Miguel Cabera’s road to 3000 hits wasn’t always easy
What a road it’s been though, hasn’t it? Because of Cabrera, Tigers fans have witnessed some really incredible moments. For those of us who grew up years after Al Kaline left the field and have no memory of the ’80s, it’s easy to say he’s the greatest player we’ve seen sporting the Olde English D.
Thanks to Cabrera, we saw a Triple Crown achieved. An actual Triple Crown. That was something that was only for the baseball history books. It didn’t actually happen in real life.
We saw him win multiple MVP awards. We knew when he came to the plate, the potential was there for something magical to happen at any moment.
There were tough moments, too. A few off-the-field issues. Justified disappointment. Far too many injuries as an aging Cabrera fell from the impossibly high cloud he had been riding on for so many years.
Harsh words from fans. Harsh words toward the fans. Would it just have been better if Cabrera closed out his final years in another team’s jersey rather than the one he had worn for all those years?
Who’s your Tiger? Miguel Cabrera
Today, we know the answer as Cabrera surpasses 3,000 hits, 2,159 (and counting) of them while representing the Detroit Tigers.
Comerica Park hosted its largest crowd in five years. Miguel Cabrera is having fun again, joking with the media, messing around with his teammates, giving kids who gather by the side of the dugout memories that will last a lifetime.
Mig-gy! Mig-gy! Mig-gy!
All is forgiven now. After hitting your 500th home run in Toronto, you wanted to make sure your 3,000th hit was in Detroit — and you did.
Mig-gy! Mig-gy! Mig-gy!
Even as you handed your first baseman’s glove to rookie Spencer Torkelson before the season. Maybe because you did, because you want to see the team reach the heights you saw it at before.
Mig-gy! Mig-gy! Mig-gy!
Deflecting talk of an individual accomplishment — even one as rare as this — because you know the team winning should always comes first.
Mig-gy! Mig-gy! Mig-gy.
You’re our Tiger. You always have been — even if we just didn’t remember it at times.
But on a perfect Saturday afternoon in Detroit, it’s clear there was never a doubt.