Miguel Cabrera, currently sidelined since early this month with a balky hamstring, hurt his standing in Detroit this week by showing up in a few regrettable headlines.
“Nobody appreciates when you play hurt, so I’m going to take my time and play when I’m good,” he said first. “I play a lot of years hurt here in Detroit. They don’t appreciate that. When you are doing bad, they crush you. They crush you. They say you are bad. You should go home. You don’t deserve anything. That you are old. I say ‘OK. I’m done playing hurt.’ When you are going good they say, ‘Oh, oh, you’re good.’ Now I take my time.”
The Tigers are somehow currently 1.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, but surely on the way to a 90-loss season. So it makes sense that Cabrera, who struggled mightily last year while fighting injuries, wouldn’t be in a rush to return. That’s what made the second report about his discontent even more confusing.
“What I feel badly about is that he’s stuck in Detroit. He always wanted to come back to Miami,” former Marlins executive and CBS Sports MLB analyst David Samson said. “Every time I’d see him, over the years, at All-Star Games, [he would say] ‘hey, I’m ready to come home.’ And we just didn’t have the payroll capacity.”
The Marlins? That’s where Cabrera reportedly wanted to go? A place where both winning and being appreciated is far more difficult than in Detroit? What kind of sense does that make?
For what it’s worth, Cabrera now says he was joking.
Cabrera responded to those comments Friday, through a team spokesman saying: “I was joking with him and he knows that. I am focused on getting back out on the field and helping my team here win. That is my focus.”
The team spokesman said Cabrera did not want to discuss the Samson comments further.
Maybe this is a molehill being assembled into a mountain. But Cabrera is coming off a whiner here. He is making $30 million this year and has thrived in a what amounts to a safe-space market. The fans have never turned on him despite his off-field scandals. The media has addressed his clouding foibles but not sensationalized them as would surely happen in a tougher town.
He is a god in Detroit and sits atop a pedestal. He could chose to stay there, comfortably, and collect his big paychecks until retiring and waiting for the Hall of Fame to call. Instead he’s choosing to vent his frustration, and slap the hand so willing to pat him on the back.
Cabrera has given a lot to the city and the fans. He may be the greatest Tiger since Ty Cobb. That does not make him infallible. And he should be wary of getting what he wishes for, joking or not, in different pastures.
Perhaps the fans won’t be so understanding. Perhaps they won’t look the other way on personal failings. Perhaps reporters won’t have as delicate a touch. And perhaps that $28 million a year won’t feel quite as good.
Then there’s this: Detroit brass, if they’re smart, would love for a team to swoop in and take Cabrera’s contract off the books in return for young, malleable talent. They won’t say so publicly, but his greatest value to a rebuilding team is as a trade piece.
Hard truths abound. Until this point, everyone has been too polite to say them. Maybe that changes with Cabrera opening the floodgates.