I guess I’m going to have to write this again. And I’m sure I’ll take heat for it—again.
Miguel Cabrera is the most talented player the Tigers have had since Al Kaline retired. Check that; Miggy is the most talented since Kaline was in his prime. We’re talking some 45+ years.
Cabrera is a marvelous ballplayer, a mountain of a man whose bat speed and ability to drive the baseball to the opposite field is just plain stupid.
They should just pre-print lineup cards for the Tigers with Cabrera’s name inked in at the cleanup position. It’s easier to scratch his name out a handful of times a year than it is to write him in 155-160 times every season.
Cabrera, the fun-loving man child of a first baseman who has the skills to play the game on a plane above that of his peers on a nightly basis, is also the most maddening of the Tigers.
The most maddening is not Ryan Raburn, vilified for his limp noodle bat and iron glove.
The most maddening is not Brandon Inge, banished for now in Toledo.
The most maddening is not Austin Jackson, the strikeout prone leadoff man who is devoid of many leadoff man skills.
The most maddening is not even Jim Leyland, the irascible manager with a fetish for resting regulars, even in a pennant chase.
Raburn, Inge and Jackson cannot be the most maddening because they are mortal baseball players, men of either eroding or overrated skills, whose performances are often nothing other than what they are capable of producing on a consistent basis. They are what they are, I guess you could say.
But there can be no player more maddening than the gifted one, who ought to be doing so much more but for whatever reason, isn’t.
I’m going to write this again, as I did two years ago.
It was a little later than this back in 2009, in September to be exact, when I crabbed that Cabrera was shortchanging his teammates as the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central—which had ballooned to 7.5 games at one point in the month—shrunk almost daily.
Here I go again—because here Cabrera doesn’t go again.
Baloney, I say, to those who would tell me that I expect too much from Miguel Cabrera.
Look at his numbers, they’ll say. He grinds out an MVP-like season almost annually.
So how come Cabrera has never truly ever, in his four years as a Tiger, put the team on his back for any extended period of time?
Has he? Go ahead—I’ll wait while you come up with some examples. Or one, even.
Cabrera is doing it again, his timing again impeccably bad.
He has pedestrian numbers, this season, for a man of his talents. He swings too much at the first pitch. He grounds out to shortstop more than I thought was humanly possible.
With Cabrera, you absolutely marvel (at the risk of sounding like Rod Allen just there) at what he is capable of doing to a pitched baseball. He’s the first Tiger since Cecil Fielder of the early-1990s who makes you stop dead in your tracks, so you can watch his at-bat.
But he’s capable of so much more.
This is the time of the year when the Tigers so desperately need their best player—and Cabrera is, without question, their best player—to be saddled up for the final 46 games of the season.
This is the time of the year when players of Cabrera’s ilk are determined to pile as many teammates onto their back and carry them for a few weeks.
Miguel Cabrera doesn’t possess that determination, or that drive. He has shown no inclination to carry his teammates. The game is so easy for him, and maybe it’s too easy. He’s wasting his talents. He’s doing it again, with the Tigers doggedly trying to fend off the Indians and the White Sox.
An elite player like Cabrera, regardless of the many talented guys around him, rises to the top, like cream. Or at least, he should.
Cabrera doesn’t rise—he just sort of bobs along.
Oh, he’ll finish with his 30 homers and (barely) 100 RBI and a BA slightly north of .300.
Big numbers can look bigger at the end of the season than they really are.
Cabrera will finish with his 30/100/.300 line but it won’t feel like it.
It won’t feel like it because there hasn’t been any extended time this season when Cabrera was doing damage while his teammates scuffled.
In fact, when Cabrera was in a funk back in early-May, the Tigers were winning because the team’s catalyst, Jackson, began to swing the bat with authority.
I’m not arguing against myself here. I went on record in the off-season as declaring Jackson the most important player the Tigers employ, offensively. The way the offense struggled in April as Jackson battled his demons was proof of that.
Jackson might be the most important, but Cabrera can be the most influential. There’s a difference.
Jackson’s potential to be the Tigers catalyst is centered around consistency, which A-Jax still has yet to find as a big leaguer.
That’s OK—I’m not looking for consistency from Miguel Cabrera so much as I’m looking for the “it” factor.
You’d think that to go 30/100/.300 screams consistency, and it does.
I don’t even want Cabrera to improve upon those kinds of numbers, when the dust settles. I just want him to kick up more dust.
Cabrera ought to be able to go through periods of 10-14 days where he is virtually unstoppable. Periods when his Tigers teammates climb onto his back for a giddy piggyback ride.
That really hasn’t happened since he’s been in Detroit.
In fact, the opposite has been true. Cabrera became helpless to slow the Tigers’ freefall in September 2009. Then, the way the season ended, clouded in shame following his final weekend drinking binge, was another reminder of what should have been, but wasn’t.
There’s still time in 2011. There’s still time for Cabrera to be saddled up for the stretch drive. There’s still time to put crabapple bloggers like me in their place with a sizable portion of “How do you like me now?”
Miguel Cabrera is, by far, the Tiger whose prowess could most affect this pennant chase on a day-to-day basis.
It’s troubling that, up until now, he has no track record of catching fire and carrying the Tigers through patches of 10-15 games.
Cabrera is what he is—-the numbers at the end of the season say so.
Numbers can sometimes lie. It’s time for Cabrera to make them as truthful as possible in these final seven weeks of the 2011 season.
The Tigers need him, and more than he’s been giving them.