Not only has Miguel Cabrera made it to his 30th birthday, he'll be baseball's richest man before his 31st, which is next month, and isn't that something.
The Detroit Tigers know him about as well as a franchise can know a man, which still isn't much. They've been through stuff together. Horrible stuff. Better stuff. They must like him, not just as a ballplayer, but as a person, because they just handed him the franchise down to the water cooler.
Far be it from me to tell a rich man how to spend his money, how to splatter his franchise, when probably all Mike Ilitch really needed was a $12 million shortstop. Not my money. If he wanted to make Cabrera's great-great grandchildren (and their heirs) wealthy (again), then OK, good for them, good for the guy they all call Miggy, good for Tigers fans eager to watch Cabrera make it to his 40th birthday in their uniform.
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Everybody wins today. We'll see about tomorrow when that comes, starting with where Max Scherzer pitches next season.
And while we all get hysterical over a baseball team overspending, because that hardly ever happens (or hadn't yet this week), allow me, for just a moment, to feel good for Cabrera, who didn't need the money, but who apparently earned it. In word and deed, and again I can only judge by the commitment the Tigers are about to make to him, Cabrera has covered some serious ground over the past three or so years.
Once, on a roadside in South Florida, when he was 27, Cabrera had asked, demanded really, "Do you know who I am?" Taken rhetorically, those are the words of an out-of-control egomaniac whose view of himself is grossly disproportionate to his true place in the world. Whether he wanted it or not, he got an answer, something along the lines of, "Yeah, you're the guy going to the clink."
Taken literally, Cabrera had finally gotten around to forming the thought that might lead him to adulthood. Because the real answer to the real question was, "Yeah, you're a husband. A father. A grown man. A role model. A teammate. A member of a society that does its best not to harm the other people, the ones who've already chosen to grow up." And, yes, still the guy going to the clink.
Not given much choice and perhaps not needing one, the Tigers stuck by Cabrera. He was condemned for this and previous episodes, some quite ugly. There was speculation he could never be the same player again, not after this, and that while he might be a damned good hitter, he wouldn't be worth the bother, the embarrassment, the risk.
Cabrera immediately had his best season to that point. That was in 2011. He was the American League MVP in each of the next two seasons. Then, with two years left on his contract, the Tigers with that much time to gauge the player and the man, they do this: They extend his contract by $248 million and maybe $60 million more, by eight years and maybe 10, and geez apparently the probation period is over.
We are generally too prone to judgment. To absolutes. We are too prone to assumptions based on what we see for three hours a night over six months. We decide a man's worth based on how many autographs he signs, or doesn't. In truth, pffft. We know nothing. He can hit a ball or throw it, that's it, and even that leads to public shouting matches because someone always has to be right.
That said, it's been easy these past few years to pull a little for Cabrera. He'd messed up big, said all the right things, messed up big again, re-read his earlier thoughts on remorse and the renewed fight, and gone back to hitting third. It was OK, I think, to hope he was becoming the person he wanted to be or, perhaps unfairly, the person we wanted him to be. He's accepted his MVP wins on television with children in his lap and others swirling about, and that seemed good. He's laughed a little easier. There've been no public incidents.
I don't know if he's happy. I don't know if he's changed. I don't know if he needed to change. I don't know how he treats the people around him. It's not my business.
All I have to go on is what the Tigers just did, and the distance they seem to have covered in the past three years on the subject of Cabrera, and I'll believe that just a few of those dollars are going toward their trust in him to be a more decent person.
If so, good for Cabrera. Good for all of them. Because they're going to be spending a lot of time together for a while.
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