Rothenberg: Cabrera’s season-ending injury hurts more than just the Tigers

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In baseball, injuries are rather common. Let’s face it, you’re standing in the batter’s box while someone throws a fastball 90 miles per hour right at you. Something bad is bound to happen at some point. Heck, even umpires get injured here and there.

Unfortunately for Miguel Cabrera, he’s no stranger to the disabled list.

Since July 3, 2015, Cabrera has been listed as “Day-To-Day” five times with calf, groin, and hamstring strains. In addition to being listed day-to-day, he has been on the 10-day disabled list three times.

On Tuesday, Miguel Cabrera swung and missed at a slider out of the zone, and immediately dropped his bat, wincing in pain. He immediately walked off the field, visibly frustrated.

On Friday, he went under the knife for season-ending surgery.

While the Tigers have been hovering just under the .500 mark nearly all season long, there’s no chance they’ll even be considered a playoff team in September. The full-time loss of Cabrera clearly doesn’t help that cause.

Now, it’s no secret that Cabrera is making a ton of money. In fact, he’ll be making more money being injured and sitting in the dugout resting all season long than most people will make their entire lifetime. But for now, let’s just avoid that topic of conversation, because money necessarily isn’t the issue (and by the way, he’s making $30 million this season).

Miguel Cabrera is, has and always will be one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. If the Tigers are on the road against a mediocre team, people will buy tickets to the game solely so they can watch Cabrera step up to the plate.

He’s made 11 All-Star appearances, won two MVP Awards and won the Triple Crown. He’s posted a .316 career batting average, which is good for second-best among active players in the game today. What more can you ask for, the guy is basically the modern-day Babe Ruth.

But at 35 years old, his body is falling apart and is knocking him down like a trail of dominoes.

The last time he appeared in about 145 games or more was in 2016 in which he played in 158 games. But in 2015, he appeared in 119 games, 130 games in 2017 and only 38 games this season. Along with the decrease in games played, Cabrera had the worst season of his career in 2017 when he finished with a .249 batting average and 16 home runs. The pattern of fewer and fewer games played is rather noticeable, and the increased amount of games missed is solely due to injury.

Let’s take a look at Albert Pujols for a second.

The 38-year-old veteran doesn’t have the injury-filled history that Cabrera has had, but they are both aging first basemen, and two of the best hitters in the league when they were in their prime. The last time Pujols played less than 145 games was in 2013 when he played in 99 games. But from 2014 to the present day, he’s hit .272, .244, .268, .241 and .251 respectively.

Aside from the injury bug, what the two really have in common is a decrease in batting average as they have gotten older. Granted, this could be the case for arguably any player as they age, but Cabrera and Pujols are in a league of their own when it comes to hitting. Heck, David Ortiz hit .315 in his final season, and people were begging him to come out of retirement when the Red Sox were struggling early in the 2017 season.

What makes matters worse for the injury-riddled Cabrera, is that his season-ending injury is an injury he’s never had to deal with in his career. The ruptured tendon in his left bicep is not a good sign. Is it possible that a myriad of newfound injuries strike Cabrera in the near future? I wouldn’t doubt it.

Granted that the Tigers are currently in the rebuilding process, they won’t be a contending team for another few years or so. By the time the Tigers could be playing playoff baseball in October, Cabrera could be into his 40s. Who knows.

Players like Niko Goodrum and John Hicks will get the opportunity to play every day due to the loss of Cabrera.

Where the loss of Cabrera really stings is in the clubhouse and on the field. Countless amounts of players look up to him, and aspire to soak up the countless knowledge that he has about the game. The love he has for playfully messing with fans and players alike will truly be missed.

He has decided to do all his rehabbing and training at home in Detroit so he can be close to the team and the fans. Occasionally, he’ll check in to be around his teammates, who to their credit are hovering near .500 despite projections for 100 losses.

At this point, it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not Cabrera will return in the 2019 season looking and playing like he did throughout his prime. There seemed to be some promise of that this season in which he hit .299 with 11 doubles and 22 RBIs in 28 games played.

Cabrera has been the face of the franchise for a long time, and surely will go down in the history books as one of the best players for the Tigers. He has had to overcome a few bumps in the road off the field, but at the end of the day, he’s always ready to play. At this point in his career, you have to appreciate each time he steps to the plate, because just like we saw this season, you never know when it could be his last.

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