Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera had successful surgery on Tuesday, repairing a damaged core muscle. Looking back on the way the Tigers went down to end the season, one has to ask the question, “Should the Tigers have sat Cabrera after he aggravated his injury in late August?” There is a lot to take in from both sides of this argument. However one thing in this situation is for sure, the numbers don’t lie.
The date of aggravation will be burned in my memory for the foreseeable future. August 21st, 2013 in a 7-1 win over the Minnesota twins, Cabrera grimaced after striking out in his last at-bat. Cabby had been battling a hip and ankle issue for most of the season but this was something different. Over the span of his next 30 regular season games, the man we all counted on as Tigers fans became a shell of his former self. So, would sitting him have helped the Tigers make their World Series dreams more attainable come playoff time?
The first thing that most fans question is, “Would they have won the division without him?” Now while a lot of you would say no, you have to check the numbers. From August 21st until the end of the season, Cabrera hit .289 with only 5 extra base hits (4 HRs and 1 2B.) The Tigers finished with a record of 19-17 over their last 36 games and Cabrera sat out 6 of them. This included 20 games against the Mets, Marlins, White Sox, Twins, and Mariners. The Mets finished with the best record out of these 5 teams at 74-88. The other 4 teams combined for a record of 262-386. So 20 out of the final 36 games came against the bottom half of Major League Baseball. Even a Cabrera-less team could have challenged a 19-17 record.
The hardest thing for most fans to do here is look at the way the Cleveland Indians finished the season. They won their final 10 games and finished one game behind Detroit for the AL Central. However when they faced Detroit in their final series of the season, the Tigers won the series 2-1 without Cabrera in 2 out of 3 games. So in a world of what-if’s and should-have’s, would that amazing run had even mattered if Cabrera was playing at 85% rather than the 60% he finished the season at? In my opinion, no.
Jim Leyland became notorious for saying that Cabrera would play if he wanted to play and that was final. My problem with this is simple. As a manager of a ball club, you have to put the best interest of your team first. Personal records don’t matter and stats don’t matter if your season goal is not attained. Take a look at the Detroit Lions and the way they handled Calvin Johnson in Week 5 this season. From a personal standpoint, Johnson was ready to play even if he wasn’t 100%. The coaching staff took it upon themselves to shut him down and take the chance of falling flat on their faces offensively. We as fans knew it was going to happen, and sure enough it did. Three weeks later, a healthy Megatron destroys the Dallas Cowboys for 329 yards on 14 receptions in an unlikely comeback victory. Unhealthy Calvin wouldn’t have come close to those numbers. I believe Cabrera would have at least boosted his power numbers later in the season instead of completely breaking down had he been hit with a 15 day DL stint.
From a fans stand point, this team did not reach it’s full potential. They had a remarkable performance from their pitching staff in the playoffs wasted due to a lack of offense. This is a superstar who hit .346 with 44 HRs and 137 RBIs this season, yet finished the final two months hitting .289 with only 4 Hrs and 14 RBIs. And while Cabrera was not the only one to falter come the ALCS, you cannot sit there and tell me the extra base power he lacked during the back end of the season and playoff run would not have helped the cause. It’s easy to look back on something once all the chips have fallen into place. But in my opinion, the Tigers organization handled this the wrong way. Whether it was for the Triple Crown, the respect of Cabrera, or simply the stubbornness of a former manager, things should have been handled differently.
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