Miguel Cabrera hangs up his cleats after a successful career
The former Detroit Tigers player, renowned for his impressive hitting, hung up his cleats with the Hall of Fame calling his name.
On Oct. 1, the Detroit Tigers faced off against the Cleveland Guardians in their final regular season game. But this was no ordinary game — there was a drone show, a stadium card stunt, a tribute video, a special ceremony, and fans holding posters to honor one person in particular: Miguel Cabrera. This was the last game of Cabrera’s farewell season after announcing his retirement earlier in February. Cabrera had spent the last 15 of his 21 years in the MLB with the Tigers.
In the seventh inning, things seemed underwhelming for Cabrera’s finale: he went 0-3, walked, and then was forced out after a ground ball. Then in the eighth inning, Cabrera emerged from the stadium with a glove on his left hand, igniting the crowd. He was positioned at first base, a position that was meant to be symbolic as he hadn’t played first in over two years. What came next was purely magical, as if the baseball gods had granted Cabrera one last wish. The Guardians first batter, Steve Kwan, hit a grounder right towards first base. Cabrera scooped the ball right up and jogged a few feet back to the plate before Kwan could reach it in time, grinning at the crowd as he did so.
Then, suddenly, the game paused. For a moment, even Cabrera didn’t know what was going on. Each of Cabrera’s three kids came out to the field to hug him. Time slowed down as the speakers played ceremonious orchestra music in the background. As he returned to the dugout, Cabrera hugged each of his teammates and members of the Tigers coaching staff before looking at the stands one last time with thousands of fans giving him a standing ovation.
Cabrera’s history with baseball can be traced back to when he was raised in Maracay, Venezuela. Cabrera’s mother, Doña Gregoria Torres, was a professional softball player in several states in Venezuela who shared her love for the game with Cabrera. Growing up, Cabrera had always shown an interest in volleyball and baseball, and by the age of 16, had gained the attention of several MLB scouts.
At that age, Cabrera signed a $1.8 million deal with the Florida Marlins as a free agent in 1999. From then on, Cabrera bounced around in the minor leagues before being called up to the majors by the Marlins in 2003. The signs for greatness were evident in Cabrera's first game versus the Tampa Bay Blue Devils where he hit a walk-off home run (a home-run in the ninth inning that ended the game). For the remainder of the season, Cabrera’s promising individual performance along with the Marlin’s strong team success enabled them to make the postseason. The Marlins had a lot of success in the playoffs, making it to the World Series where they ultimately defeated the heavily favored New York Yankees 4-2 in a best-out-of-seven game series.
The following season, Cabrera cemented himself as the one of the best hitters in the league with 33 home runs and 112 RBIs (runs batted in). Cabrera’s phenomenal play would earn him his first All-Star game in 2004. However, the Marlins would fail to make the playoffs. This trend would continue for the next three years, where Cabrera would display great statistics and be named to All-Star games, but without a playoff appearance to show for it.
In 2007, the Marlins traded Cabrera as part of a package deal to the Detroit Tigers. There, Cabrera and the Tigers agreed on an eight-year $152.3 million contract extension, the fourth largest contract in baseball history at the time. At first, the Tiger's seasons were disappointing, missing the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. However, Cabrera’s individual performance continued to blossom. In 2011, Cabrera earned his first batting title, leading the American League in batting percentage with .344. In 2012, Cabrera and the Tiger’s season came to a peak. Cabrera made history by winning the Triple Crown (when a player has the highest batting average, home runs, and RBI) and an MVP award by ending the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBIs. His stellar season propelled the Tigers to a World Series appearance, where they ultimately fell short to a sweep by the South Francisco Giants.
Despite Cabrera winning another MVP in 2013, the Tigers never managed to match the level of success they achieved in their 2012 season. According to Bless You Boys, a Detroit sports outlet, previous injuries “back (twice), calf, biceps (four times), knee (thrice) and hamstrings (twice) in the last five seasons” also caught up to Cabrera. When he signed another contract extension in 2014 for 8 years, $248 million, it drew critics from analysts and fans alike.
On Apr. 1, 2021 Cabrera hit his 500th home run. Just a year later on Apr. 23, 2022, he became part of the 3000th hit club. In February 2023, Cabrera formally announced his retirement.
During his final game, when asked about his baseball career, Cabrera admitted that “I played with love. I played hard. I’m gonna miss it, but it is what it is. This is the end. … At the end of the day, thank God.”
While Cabrera never managed to win another World Series with the Tigers, he will go down as one of the greatest hitters in MLB history. His high involvement in the community is highlighted in The Miggy Foundation, a non-profit organization he created in 2012 that aims to inspire youth to play baseball and softball. The Tigers also announced that Cabrera will be working closely with the organization in the future, where he’ll serve as an assistant to the president of baseball operations Scott Harris.