by Christopher Wenrich
Miguel Cabrera entered the 2,000-hit club in grand style, going 4/5 with a home run and three RBIs. His two-run shot off pitcher Ryan Webb in the eighth inning made him the 277th player in Major League Baseball history to reach that impressive milestone. Next in Cabrera’s sights is Jason Giambi (2,002 hits). Raul Ibanez (1,995 hits) may soon be the 278th member .
In his MLB debut, Cabrera collected his first career hit, which was also a home run. On June 20, 2003, the Florida Marlins defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-1 in 11 innings. Cabrera was 1/5 with a home run and 2 RBIs. He hit the game-winning home run in the 11th off of pitcher Al Levine to give the Marlins the victory. Since then, Cabrera has evolved into one of the best hitters in baseball, with nine seasons of 30-plus home runs and 10 consecutive seasons with 100-plus RBIs. Heading into tonight’s game, Cabrera had 1,996 hits, 365 home runs, a career .321 AVG, .399 OBP and .966 OPS. Should Cabrera’s offensive production continue at this pace, and if he stays healthy for another four or five seasons, he will likely be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Cabrera was off to a slow start this season (1/7 with zero RBIs in two games), after signing an enormous contract extension with the Detroit Tigers. The contract drew criticism from baseball pundits, fans, and the 29 other MLB clubs. Although Cabrera is still arguably the best hitter in baseball today, there is cause for concern with the extension. One need look no further than Albert Pujols, who left the St. Louis Cardinals and signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a free agent years ago. Pujols was widely regarded as the best hitter in baseball, but quickly declined and struggled with injuries as an Angel. Pujols is still a very productive hitter, however his statistics over the past few years do not justify the contract he signed with the Angels.
Until there is news of Cabrera struggling with injuries or a prolonged slump (two games does not a slump make), there is no reason to believe he could not win another MVP award this season. Since joining the Tigers in 2008, Cabrera averaged 156 games played, 37 home runs and 122 RBIs. He hit 44 home runs in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, with 137 and 139 RBIs, respectively. The 2008 season (.292 AVG) was the last time Cabrera hit below .324 and the last time he registered an OBP lower than .393 (.349 in 2008).
Concerns about his contract extension aside, Cabrera has demonstrated excellence as a hitter throughout his career and will continue to add to his legacy as one of baseball’s best hitters. His past 11 seasons have showcased a display of greatness that will be difficult for others to match.
Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment. Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).