When Miguel Cabrera was 16 years old, the Florida Marlins invited him to a workout, where they would watch him swing the bat, run the bases, and throw the ball.
The first thing he did was field a grounder. Amazingly, the scouts had seen enough, and signed him on the spot. This would be the equivalent of taking a screen test and saying one sentence, and then signing a multi-million dollar deal.
There was something there, and they were correct, as Cabrera paid off in full, leading the Marlins to a World Series title over the favored New York Yankees at the age of 20.
Now only 27, he continues to amaze, but with the Detroit Tigers, who visited the Dodgers this past weekend for a three-game inter-league series. The Tigers dropped two of three, with their only win Sunday, 6-2, behind Cabrera’s first-inning, two-run homer.
Cabrera is batting .331, with 10 homers and 40 runs batted in, and his club is 25-19, and in contention with the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.
Cabrera’s rise from Venezuela to the big leagues has been filled mostly with good times, but he admitted to having an alcohol problem, which surfaced late in 2009.
Just before spring training, Cabrera addressed the media in Detroit, and said he took care of his drinking problem, and that he looks forward to a Most Valuable Player-type season. “When you’ve got problems, you can’t hide,’’ he said.
Last season, Cabrera, a four-time All-Star, slugged 34 home runs, drove in 103 runs, batted .324, and vowed he was going to be a better man, which he has been so far.
Demons are something that we all have to deal with, but when you’re in the spotlight, it’s really tough.
When Cabrera came up to the majors in 2003 at 20 with Florida, he didn’t have a position. He played third base, and the outfield, and now toils at first base. There was never any doubt but that he could hit, and hit for power and average.
That season, Florida qualified for the playoffs as a wild card, and pushed aside the San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series in four games, and then faced the lovable Chicago Cubs. The Cubs took a seemingly insurmountable three-games-to-two lead in the NL Championship Series, with the next two games in the Windy City.
In the blink of an eye, the upstart Marlins came back and tied the series, and won Game 7, only to face the powerful Yankees in the World Series.
What caught everyone’s eye was the overall play of Cabrera, who batted .333 and drilled three home runs with six RBI and nine runs scored. He dipped against New York, hitting .167, but still drove in three runs with one walk and one run scored.
Like clockwork, Cabrera, a .312 lifetime hitter, has driven in 100 runs or more in every full season. Cabrera has averaged 33 home runs, with 118 RBI, and has continued on that path during his three seasons with the Tigers, where he belted a career-best 37 homers and drove in 127 runs in 2008.
There’s no reason to think that there is going to be a letdown, because Cabrera is quite simply a hitting machine, and that’s rare.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.