By:  Holly Horning

We receive great questions from readers. Some of them require longer answers than our Saturday blogs can accommodate, so I’ve decided to pull one of them to answer today when there is the ability to provide more space and analysis. And this topic is very timely.

Bob I. emailed us his concern about Miggy’s return to the lineup from the DL. As we all saw, in the very first inning of his return, Cabrera aggravated his injury – grabbing the back of his leg and grimacing. And given that Ausmus or Rand never even left the dugout to check on him was head-shaking.

So Bob wants to know more about when to bring a player back from the DL when the team is out of contention. And it’s a great question because it involves the priorities of the owner, team, manager and the player. Let’s dig in…….

We all saw Miggy working out with the team earlier this month – running tentatively and, as we say out West, still with a “hitch in his giddy-up”. But fans were shocked to hear the claims that he was perfectly fine and ready for action. What we saw visually conflicted with what we heard.

And the other reason for our concern is based upon Miggy’s injury history dating back to 2013. Groin injuries, bone spurs, broken foot bones – none of which ever factored into a team decision to pull him from play. Fans have a right to raise the red flag.

Let’s add further evidence – given that fans have watched a number of other Tigers, from JV to VMart to Avila, hobbled and playing in pain over the past couple years. The visual proof stands out as a distinct pattern among MLB teams and was the subject of significant media speculation and concern.

After all, it’s not just that we love Miggy and everything he does. There’s the matter of that little contract that could take him through 2025, each year at $28 million to $32 million a pop. Everyone would like to see him make it there gracefully. And logic tells us that when you have something that’s really unique, valuable and very expensive, you take extra special care of it, right?

So here’s where it gets complicated. While fans may operate from a compassionate point of view, the powers that be may not necessarily put it at the top of their priority list. There are agendas and goals still to be achieved these last 45 days and they are in direct conflict to what may be popular opinion.

Let’s start with Cabrera. Miggy loves to play the game. He needs to play the game. Of course, he’ll want to return despite not being 100%. He’s a gamer. And although he won’t say it publicly, he has to be itching to continue his quest for another batting title. There’s also the desire to add a 12th consecutive season of at least 25 HRs and 100 RBIs.

Then there’s his manager. With the Tigers closer to last place than near the top, he’s obviously concerned with his managerial record, prolonging his job and avoiding the cellar. All more likely when you have Cabrera in your lineup. But we’ve also seen where Brad has had a hard time convincing his players what to do.

Ausmus probably has little to no influence over Miggy. Earlier in the year, we watched the torture show called Victor Martinez and his knee at the plate. The manager was unable to get VMart on the DL and a midnight meeting with Mr. I and Dave Dombrowski had to be called before Victor acquiesced.

Another factor is the Tigers’ medical team. We have no idea what their professional opinion may be but it’s likely that they hold little sway in the final decision-making process unless their prognosis contains serious consequences. As employees of the Tigers, they are seen as one voice out of multiple ones yet not the primary decision-makers.

But now we address what is probably the most influential and loudest voice in determining whether Miggy stays in the lineup or not. And ironically, because the Tigers are generally considered to be out of contention, it gives more weight to playing him.

The driving force may just be about attendance and revenue. The Tigers are caught up in a vicious cycle of having a huge payroll that is primarily sustained by big attendance numbers. Currently, the Tigers have not yet hit the 2 million mark and turnstile numbers are down over last year and even 2013.

Attendance (ticket sales, food, parking) is 40% of the team’s revenue. That’s a huge chunk of change! And this is why the team will never officially say they are out of the wild card running.  They won’t throw in the towel. There is the need to keep hope and excitement, and thus attendance, alive.

And that all-important viewership figure is also down. Not good news when you are prepping for re-negotiations of two major media deals which could bring in a record number of dollars. No, the dream must continue to spin – and that dream must include Miggy. He is the star of the show.

Officially, he is the face of the franchise. To paraphrase an infamous line from Field of Dreams, “If you play him, they (fans and media) will come.”

Is there a conflict of interest between playing and protecting Cabrera? Based upon what we’ve seen and what we know, yes. But the most important question, yet unanswered, is to ask who is really watching out for Miggy’s interests.


  1. Great article Holly. My belief in resting Miggy until he is 100% is based more on business than compassion. Only a healthy Cabrera will help the Tigers become contenders and assure good attendance numbers. Putting his health at risk this year when there is nothing to be gained is shortsighted and has potential long term consequences.


  2. The Tigers are paying Miggy; he is not paying them. It is their job to tell him to sit, to protect their massive investment. To keep the fan base they will have to be legitimate contenders, which they won’t be unless he is completely healthy. So having him limp out there now is penny wise and pound foolish.


  3. I’m getting the impression that Miguel Cabrera makes his own rules. The joking around with infielders instead of focusing on his base running (Friday’s game). The silent treatment with the media (Sunday’s game). The apparent need for Victor Martinez to protect him both on and off the field.


  4. Part of Miggy’s problem is that he could be in a lot better shape. He could go for 7 more years if he had the same attitude that Tori Hunter has about staying in shape. Nobody seems to mention this issue about Miggy. Just think of the stats he would put up if he played that long. And when he is in shape he needs to hustle more.


  5. Guess I’m in the minority, but I don’t see any long term risk to playing him at this point. If he gets hurt, he’s got all winter to heal. Even playing 60%-70% he’s better than anyone else they can trot out there. That said, I still wish he and V.Mart would hustle more running to 1st. It sets a bad example for everyone else, including the youngsters watching in the stands and on TV.


  6. Now that was an enjoyable read when compared to Wojo’s weak attempt to sell more papers this morning. I have to admit Ive been dead wrong on VM’s and Miggy’s contributions and durability following their return. After Labor Day it’s about Brad trying to save face. Lets get the best prospects some PT and be ” smart” not risking further injury to our core lineup.


  7. Miggy has 8 yrs. left, Victor 3yrs. A pure business decision would state Miggy is a more valuable asset to protect but also market. A pure baseball decision states Miggy is the better offensive weapon. If they have to bring up someone to play 1st in Sept. and have Miggy DH 1/2 to most of the time so be it. Victor still gets to DH on Miggy’s playing days. Both must be 100% for 2016.


  8. Miguel has to protected, even from himself. Uou can see how he’s not 100%. Let him get injured again and argue he will heal in winter, that’s like playing with fire over you investment, not to mention inhuman. There is probability that he does not want to be seated; been so close to reach a new batting title (and the bonus that might represent).


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