By: Kurt Snyder
Who would have thought that Miguel Cabrera would have to prove himself? After all these years. At this point in his career. After everything he has done in a Tiger uniform.
Last year, the Tigers endured their first full season of the rebuild. Avoiding 100 losses was their only accomplishment. It was everything we thought it would be.
But despite the ugliness, Tiger fans still searched for anywhere they could hang their hat. And the answer for many was Miguel Cabrera.
At least they had Miggy. Until he tore his bicep swinging the bat.
Another season. Another Cabrera injury. It has become almost predictable. Seemingly every year, Cabrera arrives at spring training looking in the shape of his life, coming off an injury, only to suffer another one during the season.
But 2018 was different. Never had Cabrera suffered an injury so severe that it ended his season long before the All-Star Break.
Certainly, there is never a good time for Miggy to get hurt, but during a time that offered so little to look forward to, at least you could look forward to his next at-bat. But there would be no next at bat. Unfortunately, we all got another taste of life without him.
I guess you could say there’s always next year, because in the blink of an eye, another season is approaching and Cabrera will get thrust back into the spotlight. And as he looks around, the team will kind of look like a bunch of rubble after a big fire.
More than ever, Miggy has a job to do.
This could be the biggest challenge of his career. With all of his distractions outside the white lines dominating the news while he was hurt and then bleeding into the off-season, it’s time for him to do something not many feel he can handle.
Miggy has to lead.
He must. There is no one else.
Nick Castellanos is in the lame duck year of his Tiger career. He knows he will be traded. He just doesn’t know when. He was beginning to take on a much-needed leadership role but we can’t ask him to continue, given his future with the club.
It’s got to be Miggy.
So many of his teammates will look to him for guidance. He has been here the longest, has experienced so much and still stands as one of the game’s greats with a space reserved for him in Cooperstown.
Ron Gardenhire, who only got a small taste of having Miggy in his lineup every day, surely will look to Cabrera to lead. He has so much to offer, given his talents and his success.
It’s where all the focus should be. We are all very familiar with his weaknesses but they all need to be put away, and his strengths need to take center stage.
So that’s the speech. That’s the fluff. It’s what we all want. But what will we get? What do we really expect?
Well, don’t expect Miggy to gather the team and give speeches or walk through the dugout clapping and encouraging his teammates. That has never been him and it shouldn’t be expected now.
When I say that his strengths need to take center stage, leading by example may be all we get out of him. And if that sounds negative, it wasn’t my intent. Because Miggy’s example speaks volumes.
The man knows how to hit. He is a surgeon with runners in scoring position. He is a master at hitting the ball the other way, an art many can’t master. He hits for power to all fields and he knows how to work a count. He’s a competitor who deserves respect.
This is how he can lead. He is surrounded by the young and impressionable. And if they want to know how to hit, frankly, they are going learn a whole lot more from Miggy than they ever will from their hitting coach. That’s just a fact.
Miggy has already said this: “I want to be dangerous.” And I love that. Because when he is dangerous, this town can’t get enough of him. And neither can his teammates.
When he is at the plate and is dangerous, everyone takes note. No one is leaving the room. No one is leaving their seat to get a hot dog. None of his teammates are on the bench. They are all hanging over the dugout railing, waiting to see what he will do next.
Who is fooling who? We know what to expect from Miggy. Leadership skills? From our vantage point, does he have many?
He celebrates with his teammates. He jokes with his teammates. But he doesn’t always know their names. So we can’t sit here and ask for things that Miggy has never given us before. He can only be what he is. He can only strive once again for what he was.
He was dangerous.
And if he can be that again, many will learn, just by watching.
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