Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted last week that Miguel Cabrera's MVP candidacy will be hurt by a certain "Wonderboy." He's right, but that shouldn't stop us from recognizing the greatness that Cabrera continues to show.
Granted, Cabrera has never been and never will be an elite defender, especially since he willingly made a leap across the diamond to play a much more difficult position once the Tigers signed Prince Fielder in the offseason. But the guy can straight up rake, and his consistency at the dish is something we need to appreciate even more so than we already do.
Until this season, Albert Pujols was universally recognized as the best hitter in baseball. His track record proved such, and the longtime Cardinal was thus rewarded with a monster contract out West. Now, in a season in which the man dubbed "The Machine" has proven to be human-like from time to time, we're left wondering who's ready to take the reins as baseball's best hitter. And front and center sits a usual suspect in Cabrera.
Cabrera has never been labeled a "machine," but he's also been rather inhuman-like since he arrived to the majors at age 20 — coincidentally, the same age as Mike Trout (the aforementioned "Wonderboy") was when the Angels outfielder really started turning heads this season. Cabrera quickly garnered attention for his performance in the NLCS in 2003, leading the Marlins to a seven-game victory over the Cubs and eventually a World Series title. Ever since, he's consistently been among the game's greats, and yet an MVP Award has eluded him this entire time.
It'll likely happen again this season, with Trout bursting onto the scene and proving he might already be the best all-around player in baseball. But Cabrera is having another textbook Miggy season, and it could be his best opportunity yet to earn MVP honors. Hardware or now hardware, though, it's Cabrera's overall body of work since Day 1 that needs to be lauded as we head down the stretch.
In driving in his 100th run of the season on Tuesday night, Cabrera has reached the 100-RBI mark for the ninth consecutive season. The only season he didn't reach that plateau was his rookie campaign in '03, when he appeared in just 85 games yet still drove in 62 runs. He's also batted at least .320 six times in his nine seasons before this year, and with his average sitting at .326 heading into Wednesday's action, the 29-year-old looks poised to replicate the feat again this season.
To put his career into context at this point, Cabrera joins Pujols as the only two players to hit at least 300 home runs, compile 1,000 RBIs, and have an on-base percentage of at least .390 since Cabrera's 2003 rookie season. Throw in Cabrera's postseason success (8-22-.282-.383 totals in 28 career playoff contests), and we're talking about a guy who has been among the top three players in the game for a 10-year stretch.
None of this is a secret. It's not as if Cabrera — who received an eight-year, $152.3 million deal from the Tigers in 2008 — has flown under anyone's radar. But as Mike Trout makes his ascent from flavor of the month to baseball's best, just remember there's a slugger in Detroit who's been doing it for years and who shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
Detroit today, Cooperstown tomorrow.
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