Miguel Cabrera(notes) drank himself into a violent, abusive state in October 2009, and the Detroit Tigers responded by playing him hours after they picked him up from jail. Cabrera drank himself so silly a week ago he didn't bother to stop swigging from a bottle of scotch in front of the police, and the Tigers are responding by welcoming him to spring training like nothing happened.
At this rate, the next time Cabrera takes a drink the Tigers will give him a raise.
Seriously, what does Cabrera have to do for the Tigers to punish him? Run a dog-fighting ring? Kill someone? Insult Little Caesars? Cabrera's apology, delivered Thursday almost entirely in Spanish and translated by assistant general manager Al Avila, was a joke. He still refuses to admit that he is an alcoholic. He hid behind medical privilege rather than answer legitimate questions, such as why doctors recommended he rejoin the booze-soaked baseball life today rather than check in to a rehabilitation center. And he skated once again, the Pussy Cats happy to enable the player to whom they'll pay more than $100 million over the next five years because it's so much easier than holding him accountable.
Cabrera will slip into his Tigers uniform Friday morning and practice with his teammates in Lakeland, Fla., eight days after police detained him on DUI and resisting-arrest charges. This is special treatment even by superstar standards. To invite Cabrera back into their clubhouse so soon – and so consequence-free – after such a spectacular arrest screams: Come ye, alcoholic baseball players, for we at the Detroit Tigers welcome your kind!
Even if the doctors chosen by Major League Baseball and the players' union recommended that Cabrera follow a program rather than commit to inpatient treatment, it doesn't lessen the severity of what he has done – and what he faces. This is now two extreme incidents of alcohol abuse that ended in embarrassment. Certainly they're not the only two times Cabrera drank himself into oblivion.
The Pussy Cats are, essentially, doubling down on an alcoholic whose sobriety lasted barely a year. There is supportive, and there is coddling, and for somebody who said he has worked with dozens of players with substance-abuse issues, general manager Dave Dombrowski should know better than to skew toward the latter.
Forget a reprimand. The Pussy Cats couldn't even slap him on the wrist.
"He acknowledges he has a problem," Dombrowski said.
He does, huh? Asked directly if he was an alcoholic, here was Cabrera's response: "The doctors … are the ones that would know best how to answer that."
It's no surprise Cabrera is in denial. It's not like the Pussy Cats have given him any reason to believe he has a problem.
Dombrowski said the team will help Cabrera find someone to shadow him at all times and help prevent relapses. A full-time sponsor is a nice idea. It can help. By no means, though, does it stop an addict from going back to his old ways. Johnny Narron was supposed to be with Josh Hamilton(notes) for 24 hours a day. Hamilton ended up in a Phoenix-area bar getting whipped cream licked off him by random women. Slip-ups happen. They happen far less when a person understands his disease and how it affects those around him.
Cabrera's apology tour began during a press conference – he even said he was sorry for acting like a drunken lout to the policeman who needed to give him four Charley horses before arresting him – and will continue tomorrow when, he said, he'll roam around the clubhouse with contrition on his tongue. Then he'll step into the batting cage, smack balls over a fence and all will be forgiven.
His manager, Jim Leyland, was right: This won't cause distractions. The furor over Cabrera will pass much quicker than if he were in rehab. He'll hide behind medical privilege as an excuse not to talk about it – you don't see Hamilton and other addicts who are honest with themselves taking that tack – and hit his 30 home runs and drive in his 100 runs and earn his $20 million while in what MLB termed a "multifaceted, professionally-administered program."
It sounds good. Lots of … facets. And professional … administration. And – oh, hell, who are they kidding? Miguel Cabrera, alcoholic, is back in precisely the place he needn't be. And every time the urge hits him – and it's not going away anytime soon – he'll have a choice to make: drink or don't. If he's in a proper program, he'll be able to resist almost every time. That one time he doesn't, though, he'll go through the repercussions in his mind. The law won't like it. Neither will his family. Even MLB said, in a statement, "any future alcohol-related incidents could involve more serious consequences." With so many pitfalls, Cabrera can take solace in at least one thing.
The Pussy Cats won't do a thing about it.
- Miguel Cabrera