By Will Burchfield
Maybe it was his tie-breaking home run earlier in the evening. Maybe it was his team’s come-from-behind win. Maybe it was the simple joy of playing meaningful September baseball.
Whatever the reason, Miguel Cabrera was in a chipper mood in the Tigers clubhouse after their 9-6 victory over the Twins Wednesday night. In an unusually long conversation with the media, he talked about his excitement for the stretch run and the importance of insulating the team against outside negativity.
The Tigers are one game out of the second wild card and six games behind in the A.L. Central.
“I mean you play for this, get a chance to make the playoffs,” Cabrera said. “So I hope we can do it and hopefully we can finish strong. But this is fun, this is fun.
“It doesn’t matter what people say – like we’re not going to make it, we’re not going to do this. We hear a lot of bad things, but we always gotta stay positive. Other people say the negative but we gotta stay positive. It doesn’t matter if we lose or win, we got a chance and we gotta believe in what we have.”
Over a 14 year career, Cabrera has learned to brush aside the criticism he takes from fans and members of the media. But he’s worried it’s taking a toll on some of his less experienced teammates.
“I’ve been playing here a lot of years so to me it doesn’t matter what people say. But I got a lot of new guys here. Don’t worry about this stuff. They think about it and they read it so like I said, we need to stay positive and go out there and play,” Cabrera said.
For fans who think professional athletes are unaware of what’s written or said about them, Cabrera suggested otherwise. And for those who think it doesn’t affect them, he clarified that it most certainly does.
“Yea, a lot, especially before the game,” he said.
Then he held up his cell phone and smiled.
“This thing is dangerous.”
“We’re human, you know that,” Cabrera continued. “Somebody says something to you on Twitter and you react.”
One reporter quickly empathized with Cabrera, explaining he often finds himself in the same situation. Cabrera didn’t hesitate to respond.
“I know, I read you a lot,” he quipped. “You react.”
With 17 games remaining in the season and the Tigers in the thick of a playoff race, Cabrera stressed the importance of getting contributions from up and down the lineup.
“Everybody has to go out there and bring something to the table,” he said. “We’re here for something. If we want to win, everybody has to do something. It’s not only about one player, it’s not about one guy, it’s not about one pitcher. It’s about everybody here getting together and everybody helping to do something.”
Furthermore, he added, now is not the time to start second-guessing the players at hand.
“We gotta play with what we have. We believe, we trust what we got in the bullpen; we believe, we trust what we got in starting pitching; we believe, we trust in the nine guys that go out to play every day,” he said.
Cabrera has faith in this Tigers team. He’s hoping the fans do, too, leaving them with one simple message before concluding his interview and heading for the door:
“We gotta stay positive. Detroit, stay positive.”