Was Miguel Cabrera the Pinnacle of Baseball Excellence?

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After more than two decades in the big leagues, there is so much to unpack when considering the career of Miguel Cabrera. His resume would make some Hall of Famers jealous. Cabrera was undoubtedly one of the best hitters of his generation. But taking his entire career into account, how will Cabrera be remembered years from now? Will he be considered the pinnacle of excellence?

Out the Gate

To say Cabrera hit the ground running in the big leagues would be an understatement. He made his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2003 when he was still just 20 years old. In his first career game, Cabrera hit a walk-off home run. It took him barely a month until he started hitting cleanup for the Marlins. Behind Cabrera and a great collection of veterans, the Marlins won the 2003 World Series. Cabrera hit three home runs in the NLCS and one more in the World Series to help win a World Series ring nearly six months before his 21st birthday.

Obviously, such a rookie season was going to be hard to top, but Cabrera continued to build off his success. In 2004, Cabrera made the All-Star Team for the first time. It was the first of four consecutive all-star appearances for him and the first of what would become 12 for his career. After winning the World Series as a rookie, Cabrera spent four more full seasons with the Marlins, hitting .320 or better in three of those seasons, establishing himself as one of the top young hitters in the game.

The Prime Years

Prior to the 2008 season, Cabrera was involved in a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers. Soon after the trade, he signed an eight-year, $152.3 million deal, cementing his future in Detroit. At the time, it was the largest contract in franchise history and the fourth-largest in MLB history. Despite the high expectations that came with that contract, Cabrera proved to be worth every penny.

Over the next several years, Cabrera continued to be among the elite hitters in baseball and MLB betting. Between 2009 and 2016, he hit over .300 in eight consecutive seasons. During that time, he won four American League batting titles, including three in a row from 2011 to 2013. His best season was undoubtedly the 2012 campaign when he won the American League Triple Crown. To date, he remains the only hitter to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Naturally, Cabrera won MVP honors in 2012 and won them again in 2013. He remains the most recent player to win back-to-back MVPs and only the third player to do it this century.

Building a Legacy

Needless to say, Cabrera was far more than a flash in the pan. He maintained a level of success throughout his career while showing impressive longevity. Cabrera hit at least 30 home runs in 10 different seasons, leading the American League in that category in 2008 and 2012. He also drove in at least 100 runs 12 times, doing so 11 seasons in a row at one point. Even when his numbers started to decline late in his career, Cabrera batted .250 or better in every season but one and didn’t have his OPS dip below .700 until 2022.

When all was said and done, Cabrera played 20.5 seasons in the big leagues. He hit .306 during his career, collecting 3,174 hits and 511 home runs. He is one of just seven players in baseball history to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. Those benchmarks put Cabrera in elite company, making a strong argument that he’s the best pure hitter of the 21st century. When he becomes eligible, there is no doubt that Cabrera will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In fact, he deserves to join the exclusive list of unanimous Hall of Fame selections; his career certainly warrants such an honor.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is the author of three books about baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He lives in Michigan where he writes, runs, and enjoys a good orange soda now and again.
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