Detroit Tigers fans are witnessing history this week

At some point this week, Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera will record his 3,000th career hit. He will be just the sixth player in MLB history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, joining Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Eddie Murray.

For Detroit Tigers fans 25 or younger, this is a rare opportunity to watch a historic moment in baseball history. The last Detroit Tigers player to reach 3,000 career hits was Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who did it in Baltimore on Sept. 24, 1974 off Dave McNally. Kaline, like Cabrera, was 39 years old when he hit 3,000.

Back in 2016, Kaline spoke about Cabrera to ESPN’s Buster Olney, saying “He’s one great hitters of all-time. He certainly is the best hitter I’ve ever seen in a Tigers uniform.” The rest of the story goes into the respect Kaline had for modern players. In other words, it was a big nod of approval for Miguel Cabrera from Mr. Tiger himself, the late, great Al Kaline.

But for all the impressive numbers Cabrera has produced — including hitting for a Triple Crown, a feat that is so rare only seven players in the American League history have done it, with the last being Carl Yastrezmeski in 1967 — why does it feel as though Cabrera isn’t as beloved in Detroit as other athletes?

I am a listener of the Drew and Mike podcast, and yesterday I heard legendary local broadcaster Eli Zaret rip on Miguel for being “lazy” and “fat,” among other insults typically associated with faceless sports talk radio callers. All the old clichés came out, like “he isn’t a leader in the clubhouse,” and “why doesn’t he speak more English?” Ichrio Suzuki didn’t speak English, he always used a translator. Why? That’s what he was comfortable with. So if Miguel Cabrera has issues speaking English, why does it matter to some people so much? In the past, players who spoke broken English have been misunderstood or even mocked, like Roberto Clemente.

The Miguel Cabrera extension

The facts are out there. When Cabrera signed to a $248-million extension, he was 31 years old. The deal would not kick in until his existing contract was over after the 2015 season. He suffered a rash of injuries, ranging from core issues to playing with a broken foot in the 2014 season.

Miguel Cabrera is not without his controversies. He has had a few well-publicized issues with drinking. He has a second family, which came out later in his career, and he isn’t the best at handling the media. Miguel isn’t perfect, but none of his issues are unique in professional sports. Hell, when the idea of the universal DH was floated a few seasons ago, I wrote an article saying it would be a good idea to trade Cabrera to an NL team so he could play for a contender.

But even back in 2014 the contract extension came with its fair share of criticism and praise. Max Scherzer had rejected the Tigers’ extension offer. As Lynn Henning said at the time, Scherzer would never agree before he became a free agent.

The ever popular tweet of “how much he made per at-bat” was in fashion. The risk was huge for the Tigers, considering the track record of other large extensions in major league baseball. It’s always easy to look back and criticize a contract, but if the Detroit Tigers had not re-sign Miguel Cabrera, we would have heard the same public outcry that dominated the last few seasons: the Tigers are not willing to spend to win.

Everyone has an opinion

We love romanticizing the past, but there are extremely flawed players and people already in the Hall of Fame. We rarely hear all the stories about them behind the scenes, but if you look at how the number of votes to get into the Hall of Fame have been done in the past, there is always something odd to me about it. No player received 100% of the vote until Mariano Rivera in 2019. Not Tony Gwynn, or Henry Aaron, or Ty Cobb, or Cal Ripken Jr. None of those great players got the full 100%.

Detroit Tigers fans are about to witness the sort of history they may never see again in their lifetime. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and Eli Zaret can say whatever he wants. Miguel Cabrera is not close to the player he once was, but he doesn’t reach these milestones without being an all-time great in his prime. Let great players have their moments, and let fans celebrate however they please. I know it is difficult to take out personal feelings, but what Miguel Cabrera has done in a Detroit Tigers uniform is remarkable.

Miguel around the clubhouse has the respect of his teammates. Unless the recent comments from players are all lip service, then that should be good enough for anyone.

You can find Rogelio on Twitter @rogcastbaseball

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By Published On: April 19th, 2022Categories: Detroit Sports, MLB

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