Miguel Cabrera's Future: Hall of Fame and Mass Destruction

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IApril 10, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 05:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the season opener against the Kansas City Royals on April 5, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

He’s 6'2", with arms the size of Paul Bunyan’s and thighs that look like folded over sandbags. He doesn’t have a chest, he has Rhode Island, and maybe a little of Vermont.

He doesn’t walk, he advances.

He’s just shy of 27 years of age and already has 211 home runs, is edging nearer to 800 RBI, and has collected over 1,200 hits. He has a career batting average of .311.

Miguel Cabrera is just starting to inflict his damage. If he was a country, he’d be North Korea. He’s his own weapon of mass destruction.

We haven’t seen a specimen of Cabrera’s kind in Detroit since Big Daddy Cecil Fielder was launching rockets from home plate at Tiger Stadium in the 1990s.

But Cabrera is better than Fielder. He hits for average, number one. And Cabrera’s no pylon at first base. He’s among the rarest of players: the big slugger who also has the dexterity of a ballet dancer. He’s a bull at the plate, but light as a feather in the China shop.

This is the Adonis who will, someday, surpass 500 home runs, 2,000 RBI, 3,000 hits, and Iraq as a threat to national security.

I ragged on Cabrera last September. I was cranky. But I still think he had some of it coming.

The Tigers slugger’s shoulders were losing their broadness, I wrote, in the heat of the divisional race. He was the Incredible Shrinking Man.

Some of that, I submit, was truism. Some of it was my inner Chicken Little coming out.

Fox Sports Detroit’s Rod Allen, a poor man’s Joe Morgan behind the mike, but no less knowledgeable about the game, put it this way after the right-handed hitting Cabrera lasered a base hit past the Kansas City Royals’ second baseman this week.

“He (Cabrera) hits the ball as hard to right as a left-handed hitter does,” Allen said in amazement.

It’s another part of Cabrera’s greatness: his power to right field is freaky.

A beleaguered pitcher of an era gone by once said about Henry Aaron, “Trying to sneak a fastball past Aaron is like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.”

You could say the same about Cabrera. Sometimes he swings as if it’s an afterthought. Yet he’s so strong, he drives the ball the opposite way like he’s flicking lint off his shoulder. He goes to his right better than Rush Limbaugh.

Miggy—and someone ought to check with him pretty soon to see if it’s OK that we call him that—has hit two home runs this young season, and both have been to right field. He’s an equal opportunity destroyer.

Cabrera’s power is like a fireworks display. Some of his homers get launched high and in majestic fashion, arcing gloriously above the diamond, scraping the sky before they come to Earth in a crash landing. You could make a sandwich in the time between when he makes contact and when the ball re-enters this atmosphere.

Others are laser shots, as in blink-and-you-miss-it. Those fly under the radar, but still do their damage.

The Tigers aren’t an offensive juggernaut, but they’re not chopped liver, either. They have some pieces.

You take Miguel Cabrera out of that lineup, however, and that jelly-filled doughnut just turned into one with a hole in the middle.

I believe in Cabrera again. I’m impressed with his maturity and his manning up to his ill-timed drinking binge at the end of last season. He took ownership of his life. He made no excuses.

There was some parsing of words this winter—Cabrera's taking exception to terms like “drinking problem” and “alcoholic.” Not that I blame him, but there was a hint of denial in there that caused me to squirm a bit.

But that’s nitpicking. Cabrera has not only said the right things about his behavior, he’s backing it up with actions. He came to spring training in superb physical shape, which for him means that he looked great carrying the world on his shoulders before placing it off to the side.

The man is some kind of big and strong.

He dwarfs base runners who stand next to him at first base. They all look like Eddie Gaedel.

Miguel Cabrera is going to bash his way into the Hall of Fame. The numbers he’s capable of accumulating are enough to make grown men cry. He’s 27, and that’s just wrong. And scary as hell.

The Tigers locked him up for a while with a contract as fat as the day is long, but they’ll probably have to tear that one up eventually and start over. It’ll take the GNP of his native Venezuela to keep him in the Old English D. Cool—a bargain.

You float Cabrera’s name around baseball fans and the words that come back are very violent in nature.

Beast. Terror. Monster. Freak.

An overly sensitive guy might take offense to words like that being used to describe him.

I don’t think Cabrera cares. Not only do I think he doesn’t care, I think he prefers it. A sinister nickname never hurts.

Frank Thomas, the old White Sox slugger, was The Big Hurt. Frank Howard of the Senators was the Capital Punisher. The Phillies’ Greg Luzinski was the Baby Bull. None of them complained.

I don’t know how many World Series the Tigers will win with Miguel Cabrera entrenched as their cleanup hitter. But I know their chances of winning one without him right now, approaching his prime, are similar to seeing pigs fly. And I think I might place my money on the pigs sprouting wings.

That’s why I was so cranky about this guy last September. I knew that with his talent, if Cabrera would have just turned it up a notch, to even a low simmer, the Tigers would have won the division in a cake walk.

His shoulders are plenty broad enough to carry the Tigers for stretches of time this season, if need be. And the need will be. Whether he does so won’t depend on his ability—it will depend on the space between his ears. The only thing Miguel Cabrera doesn’t have quite yet is a killer instinct in crunch time, when the games matter the most.

He’ll get that, too.

Scary, isn’t it?


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