<
>
Insider

With 400th home run, Cabrera's legacy is in the record books

5/17/2015

ST. LOUIS -- Miguel Cabrera had just finished explaining that he wasn’t sure whether the baseballs from his 399th or 400th career home runs had been retrieved when Tigers equipment manager Jim Schmakel approached him.

“You want the jersey washed?” Schmakel asked.

“No,” Cabrera said, with a wave of his hand, as if to say, No big deal.

Cabrera looked around, knowing that reporters wanted to talk with him about the day’s events, and Cabrera hoped to move that conversation along. “I’ve got to go lift [weights],” he said, politely.

The baseballs, the jersey, the bat he used, the milestone homers -- these are all important mementos because it’s possible that Cabrera will end his career regarded as the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. However, it will be left to those around him to document his excellence, to keep track of the keepsakes and to put his achievements into context, because Cabrera seems to have only passing interest in talking about what he does well. As Tigers manager Brad Ausmus mentioned last weekend, Cabrera is like a 260-pound kid who just likes to play.

He’s not really into the numbers, although career homer No. 400, which he hit during Saturday's 4-3 win over the Cardinals, resonated more with him than some of the other statistics he has compiled. With that homer, Cabrera set the record for most hits by a player born in Venezuela, passing Andres Galarraga, a man and icon that Cabrera remembers meeting when Cabrera was 16.

Cabrera is batting .333 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in his first 37 games this season. In his career, Cabrera has a .320 batting average, 2,231 hits, 1,398 RBIs and, of course, all of those home runs.

“I’d like to be 32 years old and have 400 homers,” said fellow Venezuelan Victor Martinez, who is 36 years old and has 190 homers.

The other Tigers are in awe of Cabrera, how good he is, how well he knows the game. “As a hitter,” Martinez said with a smile, “he can be frustrating, thinking how good he is.”

Said David Price: “He is the best hitter in baseball. ... He is hands-down the smartest player in baseball.” And Price went on to explain how much awareness Cabrera has, how he knows where everybody is on the field and where everybody needs to be, to the point that he sometimes alerts the dugout if somebody is out of place.

Price cited, as an example, a play that Cabrera made in Saturday's , when he ranged toward the stands to catch a foul fly, then turned and fired a strike across the diamond to third to cut down Pete Kozma, who was tagging from second. Cabrera knew instantly that Kozma would try to take the base, Price said; he was not going to be surprised in that situation.

After Cabrera’s 399th homer Friday, Tigers coach Omar Vizquel asked center fielder Anthony Gose to approach the young fan who had retrieved that milestone ball. Gose followed orders, carrying with him a ball that was signed by Miguel Cabrera, and as the between-inning pitch clock counted down, he called out to the fan and asked if he could trade.

The fan’s father took the ball from his son and threw it to Gose, who, in turn, flipped the autographed ball to the fan to complete the swap. Then, rather than throw the milestone baseball back to the infield, Gose ran the ball back, to get it to Vizquel. “I didn’t want to get it dirty,” Gose explained.

Getting the No. 400 ball Saturday was easier, as it turned out. Cabrera launched the ball onto the grass beyond center field, and when a fan raced into the restricted area, he was immediately intercepted by security; the ball was taken, and after the game, Schmakel confirmed that the Tigers had possession of both baseballs.

Cabrera had indicated to Schmakel that he wanted to set aside the bat he used for No. 400, too. But a half-hour after Saturday’s game, Cabrera was in the weight room and Schmakel didn’t know where the bat was. So he picked through the three dented and dirty bats leaning against the side of Cabrera’s locker, trying to figure out where the milestone bat was. “He must’ve set it aside someplace,” Schmakel said, looking around the clubhouse.

No worries. Even if the bat can’t be located, Cabrera’s legacy is safe, stored away in the record books.

• Cabrera’s latest home run came at the end of what was a good team win, Ausmus noted.

• Cabrera is in rarefied air, writes Chris McCosky.

• The Cardinals had a terrible day baserunning, writes Rick Hummel.

• The Cardinals need to trade for a starting pitcher, writes Bernie Miklasz, in the aftermath of Tyler Lyons' short outing Saturday.

• Meanwhile: The Cubs are on a serious roll, with six straight wins and counting, the latest driven by Jon Lester.

Travis Wood is moving to the bullpen.

• The Pirates struggled for big hits against Jon Lester.

Matt Holliday grinds it out, Derrick Goold writes.

• Carlos Correa’s time in Triple-A has been productive: He ripped three more hits and is batting .348. It wouldn’t surprise some rival evaluators if Correa were summoned to the big leagues very, very soon. “He’s their best shortstop,” said one executive.

• The Astros thumped Toronto on Saturday, showing off their power again, Bob Elliott writes.

• The Jays have lost six of their last seven games.

Chris Carter had a big blast.

Collin McHugh is eager to make amends.

• Teammates talk about how Victor Martinez works to control the tempo of each of his plate appearances in the between-pitch mind games versus the pitchers -- and this is reflected in this number: The time between pitches in his plate appearances is the longest in the majors, at 27.9 seconds.

Masahiro Tanaka continues to make progress, writes George King.

Max Scherzer shut down the Padres.

Hunter Pence is back, and had a big night, John Shea writes. Everything feels ready to rock 'n' roll, he says.

• The best catch of Saturday came from a fan at the end of Giancarlo Stanton’s 477-foot homer. But the Marlins lost again, and Mat Latos got hurt.

Josh Hamilton is finding his swing, and he’s got a big chip on his shoulder, Tim Cowlishaw writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich is in a bind with Troy Tulowitzki, writes Bill Shaikin. Bridich’s naivete showed, writes Woody Paige.

2. The Royals have hoarded starting pitching depth this year, and it has paid off, with the addition of Chris Young. Now they’ve called up Joe Blanton -- and remember, they also have Kris Medlen coming back from Tommy John surgery in the minor leagues.

3. Shaun Marcum could start for the Indians on Wednesday.

Dings and dents

1. Doug Fister has a strained flexor muscle. Not good.

2. Shane Greene had an MRI, Anthony Fenech writes.

3. Chris Tillman is not worried about his back. Mike Wright will start in place of Tillman Sunday.

4. Charlie Morton is getting closer to his return.

5. Sean Marshall’s season is over.

6. Oakland hopes to have Ben Zobrist back for its next homestand.

Saturday’s games

1. Oakland has the majors’ worst record, writes Susan Slusser.

2. Rick Porcello had a strong outing. King Felix was done in by his neighbor, Pablo Sandoval.

3. Matt Shoemaker dialed up the intensity.

4. Felix Hernandez lost control.

5. The Orioles are just not playing well, and are batting .128 over the last couple of games, Steve Melewski writes.

6. The Yankees mashed some homers. CC Sabathia pitched well.

7. The Reds had another tough day.

8. Wilmer Flores and the Mets erupted, writes Roger Rubin.

9. The Phillies are rolling.

10. Jason Kipnis is on fire.

11. John Danks and Jose Abreu had a good Saturday.

12. Jorge De La Rosa was dominant.

13. Matt Garza had a really bad day.

14. Archie Bradley was hit hard.

15. Zack Greinke lost for the first time.

16. Andrew Cashner had a tough night.

17. Alex Wood was The Man for the Braves.

18. A throwing error hurt the Rays.

NL West

• Sandy Koufax says there’s no need to worry about Clayton Kershaw.

• Pedro Moura writes about the Dodgers’ stats.

A.J. Ellis is trying to get used to the role of a backup, writes Dylan Hernandez.

Yasmany Tomas hit his first homer.

NL Central

• Clint Hurdle is encouraged.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Travis Wood recorded his first career save Saturday against the Pirates after throwing 97 pitches (4 1/3 innings) Thursday in a no-decision against the Mets. He became the fifth pitcher to start a game and record a save in a three-game span since 2010.

• Neil Walker’s triple play ball is somewhere.

NL East

Bill Madden wonders: Can the Mets count on David Wright in a pennant race?

Ken Davidoff wonders whether the Mets are just a big tease.

• Scouts are raving about the Mets’ young pitchers, McCarron writes.

AL West

• Problems in the bullpen are spreading for the Rangers, writes Gerry Fraley.

AL Central

Eduardo Escobar had a perfect day.

• The Twins are looking vaguely familiar, writes Tom Powers.

• White Sox catcher Geovany Soto says he doesn’t have the yips.

Danny Duffy is a complicated case, writes Sam Mellinger.

AL East

Shane Victorino is getting a chance to play regularly.

• The Yankees aren’t drawing as well on the road as they used to, writes Billy Witz. Two words: Derek Jeter. The Yankees don’t really have a signature star right now, in the way they’ve had in the recent past with Don Mattingly and Jeter.

Josh Donaldson shares lessons in the school of hard knocks.

• A reliever shined for the Rays.

Lastly

• Bobby Valentine is going to work as a guest analyst on ESPN this week.

Steven Marcus wonders: Will anyone ever hit .400 again?

• The Reds are investigating their smokestack fire.

John Axford looks up to his 2-year-old son, writes Patrick Saunders.

And today will be better than yesterday.