COMMENTARY | When the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals met for the first time in 2013, a colossal matchup that has been favored to be a potential World Series preview was on display. Both teams are elite and legitimate in their respective leagues, and while the talk of a World Series matchup that could occur in five months is intriguing, it doesn't come close to the importance that one relatively unnoticed storyline represented.
When the Tigers and Nationals dueled in Washington D.C., it also marked the first time matchup between Major League Baseball's present and future.
Miguel Cabrera, without question, represents the present of baseball. There's not much that hasn't been said about him. At 30-years-old, he's not only the best pure hitter in the game, he's the face of baseball from an offensive standpoint.
The explosive third baseman has quite the resume to back up any claim, whether it's his fast track to the Hall of Fame or being labeled as the present of baseball. A career .320 hitter, Cabrera has been named an All-Star seven times, has two batting, home run, and RBI titles, four silver sluggers, and one Triple Crown. While Cabrera has won only one MVP, he has finished fifth place or higher six times in the award's voting.
Baseball's future currently patrols the Nationals' outfield. At 20-years-old, Bryce Harper has not only proved he belongs in the big-leagues, but that he's already one of the top players in the game.
While Los Angeles Angels' outfielder Mike Trout has been impressive at the age of 21, he isn't my choice for the future of baseball. Trout's a tremendous talent, but Harper is a once-in-a-generation player and has only scratched the surface of his potential.
Harper is so good that he played community college baseball during the time he was supposed to be a junior in high school. He even won the NL Rookie of the Year award last season as a 19-year-old, something that's almost unheard of, earning him the label as the future of baseball.
Harper is similar to a young version of Cabrera, who made the big-leagues in 2003 at the age of 20. Both player's offensive statistics are comparable in their first two seasons in the majors.
Cabrera hit .285 with 45 home runs, 174 RBIs, a .352 OBP, a .850 OPS, and a .497 slugging percentage during his first two full seasons, totaling 247 games.
Harper hit .277 with 31 home runs, 77 RBIs, a .350 OBP, a .854 OPS, and a .503 slugging percentage during one full season and a small portion of his second season, totaling 170 games.
Even with his incomplete statistics, Harper has the potential to match or top Cabrera's numbers through their first two seasons, which wouldn't be at all surprising. At this rate, it would be shocking if we aren't looking at Harper ten years from now and seeing a player with a resume that is just as impressive as Cabrera's.
Although they're meeting for the first time in their careers, the attention hasn't really been focused on Cabrera and Harper. It's a shame, because these match-ups that feature baseball's present and future are once-in-a-generation and don't come around all that often.
While the Tigers and Nationals meet once more in the 2013 regular season, both teams are on a collision course for a reunion in the World Series. After that, Cabrera and Harper could very well be meeting once again to claim an MVP award.
Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's a sportswriter for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.
You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.