Miguel Cabrera is one of the best baseball players to ever step into the right-handed batter's box. A first-ballot Hall of Famer who at one time appeared to have the trajectory of a top-five all-time player, production-wise, barring a late-career implosion. But the best-laid plans tend to fall apart in concurrence with the aging process. Since turning 34, Cabrera has gone from perennial Triple Crown contender to the elephant in the No. 3 hole, emblematic of the larger issues plaguing a proud Detroit Tigers franchise he helped sustain for nearly a decade.
There's a bittersweetness at work as he plods toward the 3,000-hit mark, an achievement he could limp into next year or, yikes, the year after that depending on how healthy he remains over the next 18 months. He's in this weird zone the former greats try so desperately to avoid. One that finds him coming within one hit of Babe Ruth's all-time hit mark and then promptly posting a 0-for-22 stretch. One that finds him on a current streak of six consecutive games with multiple strikeouts.
When he finally does break this slump and reach base safely, it will be less jubilation and more relief. And it will be feel rather hollow. Because the handwriting's been on the wall in 48-point font for years. This is a rapidly-darkening twilight of a career. Cabrera has precious little left in the tank, even if he does show up to spring training every year in the "best shape of his life." Even though he's still a joy to watch when he's joyful. Even though it feels gross and under-appreciative to turn the page on his past accomplishments.
What else do you say, though, about the star offensive weapon in a lineup who has a .105/.177/.228 slash line? What else do you say about a former slugger who is destined for his fourth sub-.700 OPS year in the last five years? A former slugger who has totaled 43 home runs since the 2016 Presidential election?
It's very bad. There's no easy way out of this. The Tigers organization is painting a masterpiece of incompetency and Cabrera's bloated, destined-to-fail contract is the purest example. The worst deal in a sea of terrible deals that has him earning $30 million/year through 2023.
Will the two parties even get that far? Or will someone with some courage of conviction do the prudent thing and buy him out down the road? Sadly, this probably won't even be an issue because if Detroit continues upon the current track, they'll still be lightyears away from competing in two seasons.
Cabrera is tough to watch. The Tigers are impossible to watch. Perhaps they deserve each other. Perhaps it's poetic to watch the captain go down with the ship.
This is a disappointment of titanic proportions. There's no point in trying to patch the gaping hole in the hull. The party's over outside some soothing music as hope and memories sink together.