It's impossible to judge Miguel Cabrera. During a news conference yesterday, last season's runner-up for the AL MVP award expressed regret and was apologetic for his actions that led to an arrest for suspicion of drunken driving and resisting arrest without violence nine days ago.
Cabrera, 27, will undergo treatment set up by doctors administrated by management and its player's union.
Last season, Cabrera batted .328 with 38 home runs and 126 RBI, all team highs. Despite the treatment, it's business as usual for Cabrera, who was on the field for team workouts today.
While Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and Rob Manfield, the MLB's executive vice president of labor relations, did use words like "alcoholism" and "addiction" to describe Cabrera's problem, Cabrera himself did not use those words.
And while this is not the first run-in with the law that Cabrera has had as a result of alcohol, it is the first time anyone has questioned the effect it could have on his on-the-field performance. In all honesty, it's hard to question a guy who appeared in four straight All-Star games from 2004 to 2007 and again in 2010.
Cabrera has finished in the top 10 in every Triple Crown category every season since 2005.
It's safe to say that whatever issues he might have off the field, Cabrera has remained unaffected on the field. That could be where the biggest problem started—no one was talking about it.
In Oct., 2009, Dombrowski had to retrieve Cabrera from a jail cell. Since then, Cabrera has slugged his way past his alcohol problems and into the headlines for all the right reasons.
This time, Cabrera can't homer his way past these issues. It's too easy to say that as long as his on-the-field performance remains unaffected, then any addiction facing Cabrera remains secondary. I admit, even I have made statements to that affect.
But we can't forget that Cabrera is a man, and a man with serious problems at that. It's interesting to note that BaseballReference.com uses Mickey Mantle as a comparison to Cabrera's performance through his current age.
Obsessed to a fault about his own mortality, Mantle partied and drank his way through his career. Late in life, finally realizing that he had lived well past the point he thought he'd reach, Mantle was finally able to recognize his addiction to alcohol.
"If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I'd have taken a lot better care of myself," Mantle said.
The years of drinking would take their toll on his liver. After his liver was so badly damaged by alcohol-induced cirrhosis and Hepatitis-C, Mantle needed a transplant, which he received in Jun. 1995.
Recognizing his status as a role model to millions of people, not just baseball fans, Mantle pleaded, "This is a role model. Don't be like me."
He died of liver cancer on Aug. 13, 1995 and he remains one of the most talented and tragic figures in baseball history.
No one wants that for Cabrera. I'm sure Cabrera doesn't want that for himself.
All the awards and all the home runs cannot hide the addiction Cabrera must overcome. It's no easy task and it won't happen overnight. He first has to admit that he has a problem, and take steps to find the factors in his life which are contributing to his alcoholism.
His on-field performance can no longer be the only thing people talk about. Every time Cabrera strikes out, leaves men on base or goes through a slump of any length, people will be quick to blame his addiction.
That might be a bit unwarranted, but until he shows he's ready to be healthy and leave the alcohol behind him, Cabrera won't be able to slug his way past it.
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