By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – To put in perspective what Miguel Cabrera is doing this season, his peers use names like those of nine-time All-Star Albert Pujols, 13-time All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. and 12-time All-Star Manny Ramirez.
Even those might not suffice. Both Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Minnesota Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire said that people need to wait until the end of Cabrera’s career to give him his place among the greatest players ever, but Gardenhire seemed confident that Cabrera will be the best that current generations will witness.
“He’s unique,” Gardenhire said. “There’s been a lot of great baseball players that can drive a baseball and have done things like this, but this guy’s consistently doing it every year now, and that’s hard to maintain. He plays hurt, he does it all. I think we’ll give it some more time here, and we’ll all be able to say he’s our Babe Ruth.”
Hitting .359 with a .450 on-base percentage to go along with 40 home runs and 120 RBIs, Cabrera is by far the best in major league baseball for the combination of hitting for power and hitting for average. In fact, he already ranks among the best of all time in that regard. Among all the factors that make Cabrera a great hitter, opposing batters point out his ability to make astounding fast and effective adjustments.
“People don’t really realize how smart of a hitter he is,” Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. “He’s constantly changing, making adjustments and really makes it frustrating for opposing pitchers and catchers.
“If you get him out a certain way, that’s probably not going to happen the next time,” he added.
Mauer’s teammate, first baseman Justin Morneau, also pointed out the rate at which Cabrera adapts to pitchers.
“He seems to make adjustments during the at bat,” Morneau said. “A lot of guys it takes one or two at best to make an adjustment and figure out what they’re trying to do or how they’re trying to get you out. He seems, he’s able to do that during an at bat, and I think that’s the big difference between him and most hitters, that he’s able to make that adjustment and execute while he’s doing it.
“Some guys can figure out what they’re doing but don’t have the skill set or the ability to execute on what they’re thinking or what they’re trying to get done to them, and he’s able to do that,” Morneau added. “That makes him dangerous.”
Easily the most feared and most celebrated hitter in baseball right now, Cabrera is having so much success that it might be easy to forget how far he has come. As recently as 2011, abuse of alcohol threatened to hamper his career. Morneau said he thinks that the rock-bottom incidents gave Cabrera important perspective.
“I think he probably got a little bit of a wake-up call a few years ago,” Morneau said. “I think he realized how lucky he was to have the ability that he does, and he’s been able to really do well with that, and it’s been fun to watch.”
Indeed, Cabrera has provided some impressive highlights, blasting homers in dramatic back-to-back encounters with famed New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, sending one over the wall against White Sox ace Chris Sale and delivering the goods walk-off style against Kansas City Royals reliever Aaron Crow.
Buoyed the statistics and the stories of his epic matchups against great pitchers, Cabrera has been undeniably solid.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing,” Mauer said. “Last year with the Triple Crown … That just right there tells you how amazing it is. It doesn’t happen, the seasons that he’s having last year and this year, it doesn’t happen a whole lot. He’s been a good player for a long time, and I think the last two seasons people are starting to really recognize that.”
“You want to compete against the best in the world, and he’s one of the best hitters on this planet,” Mauer added. “It’s fun to go out there and compete against him, but sometimes too you just sit back and really recognize what he’s doing is pretty amazing.”