I recently wrote an article for Detroit Athletic Co. highlighting our city’s underappreciated superstars. Austin Jackson, Greg Monroe, Jimmy Howard and Matthew Stafford are all among the best at what they do but don’t receive the recognition they deserve for it — even though they likely wouldn’t want it. However, somehow while I researched the article, even I neglected to include perhaps the most underrated athlete in Detroit: a player who might just be the best at what he does.
Miguel Cabrera is having perhaps the quietest first-ballot Hall of Fame career in history. At 29, Cabrera is in the midst of his best season ever. He’s hitting a healthy .325 but is also on a pace to hit 40 home runs and drive in 132 runs — both of which would be career highs.
Cabrera is showing that he hasn’t yet sniffed the ceiling of what he can do while hitting in front of Prince Fielder, and Fielder’s mammoth contract — in years and dollar amount — all but ensures years of productivity to come for Cabrera. He’s well over half of the way to 3,000 hits and just surpassed the midway point to 600 home runs, two of the most prestigious accomplishments in baseball. Exactly two players in the history of the game are in both clubs — a couple guys you may have heard of — Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Alex Rodriguez will also join that elusive list, but his name will forever be connected to the steroid scandals of baseball, a black mark in baseball that Cabrera has completely avoided association with. Cabrera should collect his 3,000th hit in his mid-30s. 600 home runs isn’t a given, but with the DH role, he’s definitely got a shot. The DH is the reason Jim Thome made it and Cabrera is well ahead of Thome’s homer pace.
Cabrera also seems to have a budding leadership quality that has served the Tigers well — a team in dire need of a leader in their everyday lineup. You have to believe that if the underperforming players on the Tigers’ roster are going to follow the example of anyone, it would be the most feared hitter in baseball. Despite his accomplishments thus far, Cabrera receives nowhere near the recognition of guys like Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, teammate Justin Verlander, Josh Hamilton or even National’s rookie Bryce Harper. However, I’d guess that the unassuming Cabrera wouldn’t thrive like he does if he was in the limelight. We were told Cabrera wouldn’t bounce back from his off the field issues, told his body would break down in his late 20s, led to believe that he wouldn’t even be a below average third baseman — however, he’s continually proved critics wrong.
Cabrera is the definition of an unappreciated star and is a perfect fit for the city he plays in — underrated, overlooked and only getting better.