So now the Tigers, and the baseball fans in Detroit, are going to get a glimpse of what life will be like without Miguel Cabrera.
When the news broke that baseball’s most fearsome hitter will be out six weeks, it put the Tigers’ prospects for this season very much in doubt.
If this team is going to win anything this year, it will be one of the most impressive achievements in recent baseball memory.
The team lost Justin Verlander. But they hung in there while he was away, and it appeared as if they had withstood that loss. JV’s return was a welcome sign, but he has been largely ineffective, no matter how much he wants everyone to believe that he is THIS close. It remains to be seen what kind of contribution he will make as the summer rolls along.
Then the Tigers lost Victor Martinez. But once again, they were somehow able to stay relatively close in the American League Central while he was on the disabled list. He is now fully healthy and looking like the V-Mart of old. To many observers, his clutch double against Jeff Samardzija on June 28 was to be the turning point in the season, the hit that would finally light a fire under this team and carry them all the way to the postseason.
What a difference a few days makes.
The Tigers are at a crossroads, and not just for 2015. This is an aging roster, and the farm system doesn’t offer much to look forward to. The team mortgaged its future by trading away prospects for veteran help. The Tigers have had one of the highest payrolls in baseball, and while they’ve fielded highly competitive teams for many years now, they haven’t been able to get over that final hump.
This year was supposed to be one of the last real shots this unit had at that elusive World Series title. Of course, we heard such talk in 2014, and before that in 2013. But at some point the Tigers will run out of gas. They will be an old, tired team, hampered by huge, long-term contracts, with the prospect that they will no longer be able to fill Comerica Park night after night. They risk becoming the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that dominated for a long time, but then crashed to earth.
Cabrera is still the greatest hitter on the planet. After last season’s physical problems, he has come back with a vengeance in 2015. But despite his heroics, the Tigers struggled to score runs consistently, and that problem will only be exacerbated with him out of the lineup for over a month.
The Tigers still have good players, make no mistake. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about them in the first half of this season, it is that they are a resilient bunch. But for many fans, Cabrera was the primary reason to watch this team. He alone is worth the price of admission, a gifted slugger who comes along once every few generations. He has made a lot of money for FOX Sports Detroit. Maybe you’re watching the Tigers on a given night, and they’re down by six or seven runs late in the game, and you’ve got other more important stuff you should be doing. But if Cabrera is due to bat the next inning, you’ll still stay tuned in the hope of seeing him do something awesome. Nobody else on this team (and indeed, only a handful of players in baseball) have that magnetism at the plate.
But now he’s gone, at least until mid-August or so.
Baseball in the Motor City suddenly got a lot less interesting.