By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Miguel Cabrera will tell you he did not anticipate this – superstardom, individual accomplishments and nonstop comparisons to some of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
The Detroit Tigers first baseman went 4-for-5 in Friday’s game against Baltimore. His last hit soared over the wall, and that was No. 2,000. To hear Cabrera tell it, he never even saw half that many hits in his future when he first started out in the majors.
“I never expected I was going to hit 1,000 hits,” Cabrera said. “I never expected [to achieve] something personal. I was planning to go out there and try to do my job, try to find a way to help my teammates, help my team to win games. That’s the way I do it.”
As nonchalant as Cabrera appears about his considerable career achievements – even though his career might only be at the halfway point – he knew Friday that his 2,000th hit was coming up, and he knew when he belted that last pitch that he had just smacked his 2,000th hit. More than looking excited about the benchmark hit, Cabrera seemed happiest just to get one over the wall.
“It was my first home run this year,” he said with a growing smile, and then he laughed as he continued. “I was thinking before the game if I’m going to hit a home run this year.”
Cabrera now has 365 homers in his career, and the fact that the latest homer also served as his 2,000th hit seemed fitting. After all, Cabrera has twice led the American League in home runs and has sent 44 out of the park in each of the past two seasons.
The ninth player in the history of Major League Baseball to reach the 2,000-hit benchmark before the age of 31, Cabrera joins an elite group that includes Hall of Fame inductees Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Joe Medwick, Jimmie Foxx and Robin Yount. Alex Rodriguez also got 2,000 by age 31, though he might not get to Canton because of his alleged steroid use.
Right now, as would be expected, Cabrera is not worried about his place in history.
“After I finish my career, if God lets me, I’ll have a lot of time to look back and try to see what I [did],” Cabrera said, “but right now I’ve got to focus on what I have to do tomorrow.
“If I’m not doing my job, people are going to talk,” Cabrera said, then chuckled at his unspoken reference to the monster contract he recently signed. “I’ll let people say whatever they can say. My job is to play baseball.”
At the age of 30 years, 11 months and 17 days, Cabrera is the seventh-fastest player in baseball history to reach 2,000 hits. The two-time defending American League MVP, Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 and followed up that feat with an even better statistical season in 2013 despite dealing with injuries for much of the year.
“What else can you say about Miguel as a hitter?” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Eventually you run out of adjectives to describe how – how great of a hitter he is, not only in the context of today’s game but in the context of the history of baseball. I’ve only been here for a short period of time, and I’m already running out of words to describe him.”
The other Tigers understand the history being made by their teammate. Starting pitcher Justin Verlander is in his 10th year with Detroit, and he has had a front-row seat for every bit of Cabrera’s outstanding success with the Tigers over the last six seasons.
“It’s funny, we were talking about it on the bench – the sky’s the limit,” Verlander said. “How far can he go? He’s just got to stay healthy. Everybody’s able to sit back and appreciate and respect what he’s done the first 10 years of his career.”
While Verlander said he cannot compare Cabrera to hitters he has pitched to because he has never played against Cabrera, Verlander has a quick answer for the question of whether he is glad that he has not had to pitch to Cabrera.
“Yes,” Verlander said, grinning.
For newcomer Rajai Davis, whom the Tigers added this offseason, how hard Cabrera works has made an impression. Coaches in every sport preach consistency, and Davis refers to Cabrera as “Mr. Consistent.”
“I’m just taking notes,” Davis said. “I’m sitting here, I’m taking notes every day, watching the king hit.”
Among his notes so far?
“That he can hit the ball really hard,” Davis said, laughing, “and far.”