In Miguel Cabrera's 21-year career, which comes to a close this weekend in Detroit, he made it easy for us to appreciate him.
He did it first and foremost with his bat. In five seasons with the Miami Marlins (then known as the Florida Marlins) and 16 with the Detroit Tigers, Cabrera singled himself out as one of the game's true greats.
It started with his rookie year in 2003, when he hit a walk-off home run for the Marlins in his first game.
That was the first of his 511 career home runs, a total that ties him with Mel Ott for 25th on the all-time list. He hit his latest and possibly last homer on Wednesday against the Royals.
MIGUEL CABRERA HOME RUN ARE YOU KIDDING ME
— Motor City Metrics (@mcmbaseballpod) September 27, 2023
Cabrera has been voted an All-Star 12 times and has won seven Silver Slugger awards. He's one of just 33 players in MLB history with 3,000 hits, and he's currently 17th on the all-time list. Between his debut in 2003 and the end of the 2016 season, he received MVP votes every year, and he won the award in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, he also hit for MLB's first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski's in 1967.
It's Cabrera's personality, though, that turned him from an exemplary player into a true legend of the game. At a point in baseball when showing emotion on the field wasn't commonplace, Cabrera had an exuberant style. He visibly enjoyed playing baseball, whether he was alone on the bases or in the dugout with his teammates. Those moments, when he just couldn't hide how much fun he was having, earned their own nickname: "Miggy Being Miggy." There's even an entire category of "Miggy Being Miggy" gifs on GIPHY.
In this way, Cabrera was ahead of his time. "Miggy being Miggy" was essentially a one-person "Let the kids play" campaign. At the time, no one else played like Cabrera did. He was wacky, zany and irreverent. He had fun playing baseball and didn't try to hide it. And because he was so good, no one could tell him to stop.
Cabrera's personality inspired guys such as fellow Venezuelan Ronald Acuña Jr. (who calls Cabrera "a Venezuelan baseball god") to play every game with their whole selves — not just the skill but also the pride, passion and fun that drive them to take the field every day. Even later in his career, there was never a disconnect between Miggy and the younger players. He knew exactly who they were because that's who he was. And now they're building freewheeling, unselfconscious careers just like Cabrera's.
Well, not just like Cabrera's. Some things only he could do.
Of all Cabrera's entertaining moments, one sticks out as the perfect blend of talent and personality. On June 22, 2005, in the 10th inning of a tied game between Cabrera's Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles, Miggy hit a go-ahead single on the first pitch of what was supposed to be an intentional walk.
Who else would try this? Who else could try this?! To go up and hit an intentional ball that high and outside the strike zone — and turn it into a winning hit? Only Miguel Cabrera.
Baseball will miss him, and it's better because of him.