Miguel Cabrera joins 500 HR Club

Miguel Cabrera joins 500 HR Club


Miguel Cabrera, one of the best hitters of his generation, is now a member of MLB’s 500 HR Club. The future Hall of Famer with the Detroit Tigers started his career with the then Florida Marlins

By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd

Of course, Miguel Cabrera made history by hitting the ball the other way.

That fact alone is a story within a story when chronically Cabrera’s remarkable career.

One of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time, Cabrera further cemented his future as a Hall of Famer by belting his 500th career home run. The milestone was achieved on Sunday at Toronto off left-hander Steven Matz.

Matz flipped a changeup off the plate outside. Cabrera stayed on the pitch, and calmly drove it over the wall in right field to become the 28th player in MLB history to reach 500 homers.

What’s so fitting is Cabrera’s entire foundation of hitting is grounded in using the entire field. He’s worked on it daily, during batting practice, his entire MLB career. When he talks hitting, and early in his career I’d speak to him about hitting, he also said he works on hitting the ball to right.

A natural born hitter, Cabrera literally was raised on a baseball field. Growing up in Maracay, Venezuela, there was a ball field right behind the wall behind his grandmas house. A young Miggy would leap that wall all the time, and play baseball all day. That field these days is named after David Torres, his uncle, who was a great player in his day. Torres signed a pro contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, but never reached the Majors.

Now 38, Cabrera is winding down his celebrated big league career. His body (mainly legs) are wearing down. In the process, that’s drained so much of his power.

But Cabrera has always been one of those players who is a pure hitter with power. He still can hit. And with No. 500 out of the way, his focus now shifts to another magical milestone: 3,000 hits. He’s 45 away (2,955 at this writing), along with being nine doubles shy of 600.

Tigers fans have enjoyed seeing Cabrera daily since 2008.

South Florida fans saw him from the beginning, when he broke in as a celebrated prospect at age 20 with the then Florida Marlins. When he signed with the Marlins his $1.8 million bonus was, at the time, the highest by a player from Venezuela.

Miguel Cabrera was a star in Venezuela when he was 13.

When he hit No. 500, they were partying on the streets in the neighborhood he was grew up.

In his MLB debut on June 20, 2003, Cabrera came through with a walk-off two-run homer off Al Levine of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 11th inning. The homer to center was his first big league hit.

I was there that day, covering the Marlins for MLB.com. I witnessed that first homer, and many more of the 138 he hit in five seasons with the Marlins (2003-07).

The Marlins recognized Cabrera’s milestone by sending out the tweet of his first big league blast.

It was a dark day in Marlins’ history when Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis were dealt to the Tigers at the 2007 Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

Cabrera and Willis were the last two remaining players from the 2003 World Series title team.

At the time, the trade was considered a solid baseball deal, because outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty Andrew Miller were regarded as elite prospects. Rounding out the deal were prospects Burke Badenhop, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern and Frankie De La Cruz.

But it never panned out for the Marlins.

It certainly did for Detroit.

Cabrera was a four-time All-Star with the Marlins. Willis was a two-time All-Star and the 2003 N.L. Rookie of the Year.

Maybin and Miller were disappointments with the Marlins, although they found success after leaving the organization. Badenhop ended up being a solid reliever. That was about it.

The Marlins made the unpopular trade because they didn’t have a stadium deal in place, and their two star players were getting closer to free agency, as well as more costly.

Temporarily the Marlins remained respectable after the deal. In 2008-09, they had winning seasons. Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson became their main hitting and pitching stars. But you don’t really recover from dealing a Hall of Famer.

And yes, the writing was on the wall early that Cabrera had immense upside.

I remember my first year on the beat, in 2002, and even more so in 2003, when Cabrera as rising swiftly through the Minor Leagues. Scouts and front office personnel within and outside the Marlins’ organization referred the Cabrera as a “generational” and “once in a decade” prospect.

They were right. Cabrera has lived up to the hype.

Willis, now an analyst on FOX, remains one of Miggy’s biggest fans.

To Marlins’ fans, in general, Miggy will always be a legend.

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