Throughout his career in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera has given Tigers fans plenty of reasons to celebrate. Fresh off another historic milestone, now in his 15th season wearing the Olde English “D,” those same fans have been able to take a step back and congratulate Cabrera on a career that may never be matched.
Cabrera joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club on April 23 at Comerica Park, hitting a ground ball through the right side and into right field during the first inning of an eventual 13-0 Tigers win over the Colorado Rockies. In doing so, he became the 33rd MLB player to tally 3,000 hits, and just the seventh player to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
It was a milestone day for Cabrera’s native country, as he became the first Venezuelan-born player to accomplish the feat. He is also the third Tigers legend to reach 3,000 hits, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Al Kaline.
The fever pitch at Comerica Park during the chase for Cabrera’s 3,000th hit was eerily similar to the raucous crowds down the stretch of the 2021 season, when he was closing in on 500 career homers. Every time Cabrera approached the batter’s box, Tigers fans rose to their feet and pulled out their smartphones with a chance to witness history.
“Brings back a lot of memories. I remember we always had 35,000, 40,000 people every night,” Cabrera said after reaching 3,000 career hits. “It was good to see the fans come back to the stadium like that. It was very emotional. I know what the fans mean to our games and our team, because they support us a lot.”
Second-year Tigers manager A.J. Hinch felt privileged to be in the dugout for Cabrera’s special day.
“It’s hard to put into words what we witnessed,” Hinch said. “We witnessed history. So proud of him, so happy for him.
“What a special day for him, his family, every Venezuelan baseball player that looks up to Miggy. Quite honestly, any baseball player that looks up to Miggy. Really cool to be a part of it.”
Cabrera’s arrival ushers in winning era in Detroit
The Tigers acquired Cabrera from the Marlins in a blockbuster trade for six players prior to the 2008 season. Three years later, Detroit began one of the most successful runs in club history, winning its first of four straight American League Central Division titles from 2011-14. Cabrera guided the Tigers to the World Series in 2012, in addition to ALCS appearances in 2011 and 2013.
In the pregame on-field ceremony at Comerica Park to celebrate Cabrera’s 500th homer, executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager/GM Al Avila recalled a conversation he had with the late Mike Ilitch regarding a young Cabrera, who was rumored to be available.
“Mr. Ilitch asked, ‘Could we try to get that up-and-coming young star from the Marlins?’ He actually asked that,” Avila said. “He knew who Miguel was. On Dec. 4, 2007, the Marlins’ assistant GM called me with a list of names that they wanted for Miggy. As I wrote those names down, I knew — we all knew — we were going to get Miguel Cabrera in a trade.”
In the years since, Tigers fans have witnessed Cabrera achieve unprecedented individual and team success.
In 2011, Cabrera won his first of three straight batting titles after hitting a career-best .344 with a .448 on-base percentage. The Tigers won the AL Central with a dominating 95-67 record, capturing the club’s first division championship since 1987 as a member of the AL East.
Cabrera’s 2012 season was one of the most acclaimed individual performances in baseball history. He finished the regular season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, becoming the first batter to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. He was an easy choice for the AL Most Valuable Player award.
The Tigers won their second consecutive division title with an 88-74 record, and punched their ticket to the 2012 World Series by sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Cabrera was once again crowned MVP at the conclusion of the 2013 campaign, becoming the first AL player to win back-to-back awards since Frank Thomas with the White Sox in 1993 and 1994.
As a Tiger, Cabrera has been named an AL All-Star seven times, hit .300 or better in eight seasons, crossed the 30-home run plateau seven times and driven in at least 100 runs in eight campaigns.
Now, in his 20th MLB season, Cabrera is serving as an invaluable veteran presence for a youthful and talented club eager to return to the postseason. He has taken it upon himself to teach his younger teammates about being a professional, and how to win at the highest level.
“He’s seen this place at its height, and he’s seen this place at its lowest point. And he wants to be a part of something great again,” Hinch said.
“I think he’s been super consistent — since day one of the 500 chase to now the 3,000 chase — that he wants to be on a winning team. He’s tired of losing, he’s tired of being at the bottom of the AL Central. He wants everybody to experience Detroit the way he remembers it at its peak.”
Sharing in the celebration
Upon reaching 3,000 hits, Cabrera was quick to deflect personal attention, and instead focus on what was the Tigers’ most impressive win at that point of the young season.
But according to Hinch, days like April 23, 2022, should be celebrated. It’s one of the reasons Cabrera’s teammates poured out of the dugout to share the moment with him. Rockies players, including former Tiger José Iglesias, also gathered to congratulate Cabrera on the milestone.
“We should celebrate all accomplishments like this, because we just don’t know if we’re gonna see another one in our baseball lifetime or our whole lifetime,” Hinch said.
“We’re going to look back at this and completely rank it at or near the top of our experience, having been a part of this small juncture of his Hall of Fame career