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Oct 14 / Matthew Penridge

I see you big fella: The truth about Miguel Cabrera

I was lucky to join 40,000 of my closest friends at Comerica Park the night the Detroit Tigers defeated the Texas Rangers in game 3 of the ALCS. That night Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and hit into the final out. What followed was an embarrassing display by some of the “fans” in the crowd: they booed Cabby. They booed the man that got so hot in the final two months of the regular season that he won the AL batting title. Oh, and lead the Tigers to their first division title since 1987 on the way. As the boos simmered my cousin Jeff and I turned to each other with the same puzzled look plastered to our faces. We could not believe there were people booing Cabby… In fairness, it wasn’t the entire crowd, but it was enough – say 30%ish – to make it unmistakably obvious. I would love to blame the Tea Party, but for once I don’t think it was their fault.

I am aware of Cabrera’s off-field transgressions. I am aware that his English ain’t the best, which makes his personality less accessible to the average fan. I am aware that he is so good that a level of expectation has been set that anything shy of perfection – in some way – is a disappointment.

But, what I know more than anything, is that with no Miguel Cabrera the Tigers would be a second-class team. End of story.

Here are Cabrera’s stats for the postseason (through game 5 of the ALCS), and where he ranks amongst his fellow Tigers:

Hits: 9 (2nd)
AVG: .290 (5th)
OBP: .488 (1st)
RBI: 8 (1st)
HR: 2 (tied for 2nd)
Runs: 5 (2nd)

Here are Cabrera’s stats for the postseason when I use the MLB’s “runners in scoring position filter” (and where he ranks amongst the Tigers):

Hits: 3 (2nd)
AVG: .600 (1st)
OBP: .800 (1st)
RBI: 4 (tied for 1st)
HR: 0 (tied for 3rd, only 2 players have a HR with RISP)
Runs: 3 (3rd)

There is an interesting point to make about his stats with runners in scoring position – he’s only had 5 at bats… Good for 9th fewest on the team. On five occasions the opposing team has simply walked him. With RSP Cabrera has safely reached base eight of the ten times he stepped to the plate. That is incredible. And yet, he was booed – AT HOME – less than 72 hours ago.

As I drove to an Ethiopian restaurant in Southfield earlier this afternoon, I listened to a local radio show on WDFN. The hosts were entertaining callers that said how it wasn’t the big bats (Cabrera and Martinez) who were carrying the Tigers, but those of secondary players like Raburn, Kelly, Young, and so on.

I know the unexpected heroes have played a huge part in the Tiegers postseason run – I get it… So why am I so upset?

Because for as good as Cabrera is, he still does not get the credit he deserves in this city. First of all, he is walked constantly. Opposing pitchers and managers are terrified of him. He’s simply that F’ing good. In some strange way he’s punished – with negative fan perception – for reaching base safely.  With runners in scoring position he has been walked half of the time. The other half of the time he has been the Tigers most productive offensive player.

One more time for emphasis: Miguel “F’ing” Cabrera was booed by fans at Comerica Park three days ago.

Cabrera is in the all-time upper-echelon of offensive players in MLB history. He really is that good. In what seemed like an “off” year this season, he managed to hit 30 dingers, 108 RBIs and win the batting title. Can we please start giving this man the respect he deserves?

~Matthew Penridge

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