By: Jamie Samuelsen
Miguel Cabrera may be the best hitter in baseball.READ MORE: Michigan Matters: Impacting Health & Well-Being Across Metro Region
Miguel Cabrera may be the MVP of the American League this year.
Miguel Cabrera may be the greatest Tiger hitter that most of us will ever see.
But one thing is clear – Miguel Cabrera is not the most popular athlete in Detroit. As I watched Cabrera launch his 30th homer of the year on Wednesday as part of a 5-1 win over the Twins, I thought about how great this player is and how he still doesn’t own this town when it comes to sports. This is not to imply that Cabrera isn’t adored. He is. But if you used the classic marketing campaign and posed the question, “Who’s Your Tiger?” – I’m willing to bet the majority of people would answer someone other than Cabrera.
After the game ended, I popped into a local Dunham’s and noticed that they had a full display for Tiger shirts for sale. There were plenty of Cabreras. But there were plenty more Justin Verlanders and Prince Fielders and Austin Jacksons on display. Perhaps all the Cabreras were bought up. But perhaps his play doesn’t translate into complete devotion from the Tigers fans. Based on his game, Cabrera deserves to be in the rarified air meant for Steve Yzerman, Isiah Thomas and Barry Sanders.
But he’s not. Why not?READ MORE: Detroit Police Department To Host Drive-Up Candy Stations On Oct. 31 At All Precincts
Here are a few possibilities.
1) The Language Barrier – Cabrera does not speak English well, and it’s hard to market an athlete when he can’t do commercials or long-form interviews. It’s also a convenient shield that limits his exposure to the media when he doesn’t feel like talking. (I’ll never forget the infamous Lakeland press conference that had to be translated by assistant GM Al Avila.)
2) The Off Field Episodes – The Lakeland press conference came about after his DUI arrest down in Florida in 2011. That came on the heels of the ugly end-of-the-season drinking episode in Birmingham in 2009. The Tigers needed to win one more game for the division title, and Cabrera was out until the early morning drinking with some White Sox players. I think most Tiger fans have forgiven him for the episodes. But I doubt that all have.
3) No postseason glory – Cabrera has hit in the postseason, but he’s yet to deliver a World Series title to Detroit. (He did win a crown during his rookie year in Florida in 2003). That can hardly be shouldered entirely by Cabrera, but it does count for something. That said, Barry Sanders ruled this city and we all know about his playoff performances.
4) Justin Verlander – It’s pretty simple. How can you be the most popular player in a city when you’re not even the most popular player on your own team? JV was the MVP and the Cy Young Award winner last year. He’s become the best pitcher in baseball and must-see TV every time he pitches. As long as he’s around, Cabrera will always play second fiddle.
5) Not a True Tiger – Wojo and I discussed this issue on the show Wednesday night and this was an idea that never crossed my mind, but it was brought up by more than one person. Detroit fans, the theory goes, adore homegrown talent. Yzerman, Sanders, Isiah, Verlander – all these guys were drafted by the hometown team and came up through the system or started as rookies. Cabrera came here in a trade (and was essentially purchased as the Marlins held one of their semi-annual fire sales). I’m not sure I buy this one. Chauncey Billups, Darrell Evans, Brendan Shanahan, Bill Laimbeer – these are all guys who started their careers elsewhere and all were beloved in this town.MORE NEWS: Metro Detroit Woman Files Lawsuit Against Walmart, Says Discriminated Against By Managers
This may be an overstatement. And this all could change. If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown this year (unlikely, but very possible) and the Tigers win a title, he may very well own this town. And as long as he keeps driving in runs and blasting home runs, it really shouldn’t matter. But the next time I’m at Comerica Park, I will be looking at all the jerseys and counting up the #24s. There will be a lot of them. But based on his game, there should be more.