Growing up in Maracay, Cabrera developed a reputation as being an energetic and rambunctious child who had trouble keeping quiet. Anybody could be the next victim of his quick wit and sarcasm—friends, parents, and schoolteachers alike. Smart? Sometimes. Smart aleck? All the time.
"I like to have fun and I joke around a lot," Cabrera said. "I'm always, always playing around and giving people jokes. This is fun for me. You cannot be serious all the time. Oh, I remember getting on my teachers."
On the fields of Maracay as a youth, Cabrera was a legend, partly because of the way he could hit and field as a shortstop, and partly because he was so much bigger than everybody else. Back then, height, not age, was the determining factor for which youth league a boy would play in. It would often lead to problems for Cabrera.
"I remember him hunching down against the marker on the wall, trying to make himself look like he was short so he could play with kids his age," said Marlins pitching prospect Yorman Bazarda, who is also from Maracay and has known Cabrera since they played together as children. "Miguelito had the best arm and was the best shortstop in the league. He was like a grown up playing on a child's team, but you knew he was not old because all he would do was laugh and make fun of people." (Jesse Sanchez-MLB.com-3/20/05)
Miguel grew up in an ultra-modest setting. There was a small (make that tiny) house in which he lived with his younger sister, Ruth, a karate artist and musician, and his parents, Miguel Sr., a car-painter, and Gregoria, his mother.
One uncle owned a karate school that helped groom Ruth when she wasn't playing piano.
There also were intellects throughout the Cabrera bloodlines. They helped make Miguel an honor student from grade school into high school. His academic passion was math. His favorite classes: chemistry and physics.
"Problem-solving," Cabrera said of why math and science captivated him.
Cabrera was quite a volleyball player as a youth. He could spike a volleyball through a floor. He was even offered a pro contract to play professionally in Switzerland.
Miguel also played basketball. "They put me in to make fouls," he said with a smile. "Shot-blocker, too."
Miguel grew up with a baseball field just beyond his backyard in the La Pedrera neighborhood in Maracay, Venezuela. And you can see he was on that field a lot when you see the instincts for the game he displays.
Maracay is a city of around half a million people nestled in a valley 100 miles west of Caracas. Maracay also produced Dave Concepcion, the great shortstop on Cincinnati's Big Red Machine teams.
There is a story that Cabrera lived so close to a stadium in Venezuela that he could jump from his window into the ballpark. He would watch the older players and learn from them.
His mother, Gregoria, was the starting shortstop for the Venezuelan national softball team for 10 years. She is the one who taught Miguel baseball. "Just the most essential, basic things," she said. "He's been a natural since birth."
''I'm proud of Miguelito first for the way he is,'' she said in 2005 during an interview by the Miami Herald's Kevin Baxter. She is surrounded by more than a dozen photos of her son in the living room of the three-bedroom, high-security apartment he bought his family with his $1.8 million Marlins signing bonus. "The way he respects other people.''
She then tells a story about a mother whose son repeatedly disobeyed her at home.
''He couldn't have been more than 3. He was the cousin of another player,'' she says. "And the mother sent him over to me because he wasn't eating. She asked me if Miguel ate his food when he was small. I said yes, the boy needed to eat, he needed to study if he wanted to be like Miguel. As his mother, I feel incredibly proud.''
Miguel's father played baseball. In fact, he still plays first base and pitches in a veterans league in Venezuela. Miguel Sr. taught coached his son for five years. The elder Cabrera is a machine technician who paints cars by trade.
Miguel's uncle, David Torres, made it as far as Double-A in the Cardinals' organization in the United States.
"Growing up, my uncle was always around and was always teaching me about the game," Cabrera said. "He taught me pretty much everything. The local stadium (in Maracay, Venezuela) is named after him."
Cabrera was raised in a small home with one bathroom, a kitchen and two rooms in a community of five homes where extended family lived. Miguel bunked with his younger sister, Ruth, but preferred to spend most of his time with a rowdy brood of friends who threw punches on the diamond and called Cabrera cabeza tren (train head) for his large noggin. He disliked the name, but knew "if you get mad, they call you that every day. You can't show it."
In 1999, the money Cabrera received when he signed his first pro contract changed his life. The family purchased a used car and said they'd save the rest of the money.
In 2001, Cabrera benefited from playing with roommate Adrian Gonzalez at low Class A Kane County. Gonzalez helped him achieve a comfort level with a foreign language and strange land.
Before 2002 spring training, Miguel had a fine season in the Venezuelan Winter League He hit .300-5-18 in 180 at-bats during the regular season, then hit .293-3-15 in round-robin playoff action. Cabrera also made the all-star game, where he shared MVP honors.
During the All-Star break in 2003, Miguel married his high school sweetheart, Rosangel, in a civil ceremony. Then, after the 2003 season, they had a church wedding in Venezuela. They consider themselves homebodies.
"We went to school together in Venezuela and have been close ever since," Cabrera said. Asked where she got her name, he said, "Her mother was named Rose, and her father Angel, so they combined names and came up with Rosangel." They named their daughter Rosangel as well. She was born in September 2005.
He has adapted well to the professional baseball lifestyle. And he is a vocal leader who gets along with his teammates. He stays positive and is a good clubhouse presence.
During the offseason before 2003 spring training, Cabrera added weight to his lower-body, which was not a good thing. "His lower half is a big concern," a scout said. "He was struggling to bend at the knees to field ground balls and booting them. If he’s not careful, he will be a first baseman."
Miguel's maturity is credited, at least in part, to his marriage to wife Rosa.
MLB debut on June 20, 2003: In Miguel's very first game in the Major Leagues, he hit a two-run, walk-off home run for the Marlins in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat the Devil Rays. It was his first hit in the Majors.
At 20 years and 63 days old, Cabrera became the second-youngest player ever to start for the Marlins. In 1996, pitcher Felix Heredia broke into the league at 20 years and 52 days old.
Before 2004 spring training, Miguel did a daylong photo shoot for an ESPN the Magazine cover story for the March 15, 2004 issue. His wife was not thrilled at the results: Miguel standing in a wooden boat with a bikini-clad model at each leg. Inside, he is shown frolicking in the Venezuelan surf with four models.
Cabrera was worried the images will give readers an inaccurate portrayal of his life. He is married, and he and Rosangel consider themselves homebodies. "People will think I'm a partier. (Rosangel) said I had no business taking photos with those women," Cabrera said.
Part of the problem is that Miguel doesn't look too tortured surrounded by the beautiful women. One photo shows the four models clutching at his partially removed Marlins jersey as he expelled a stream of saltwater from his mouth. (Juan C. Rodriguez-Sun-Sentinel-3/8/04)
Cabrera switched to his favorite uniform number, 24, for the 2004 season. Tony Perez had used #24 before, and wasn't ready to give it to Miguel in 2003. "He said I had to earn it," Cabrera said.
Miguel's left arm is two inches longer than his right arm. "Full extension," Cabrera said of the help this might give him to hit the outside pitch. (ESPN the Magazine-March 15, 2004)
Cabrera has known former Reds' great Davey Concepcion since Miguel was 12 years old. Concepcion coached his team. And Davey still has advice for the young outfielder.
"He always talks to me about consistency and working hard," Cabrera said, of the nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner. "That's what will keep me playing every day in the big leagues. And to always be positive, regardless of what happens, good days and bad days. You have to be the same person."
Miguel has rock-star status in baseball-mad Venezuela, where his impish smile adorns billboards pushing everything from Pepsi to his home state of Aragua. But his unparalleled success left him imprisoned in the simple, lightly furnished eighth-floor apartment his shares with wife Rosangel and their catcher's mitt-sized dog, Cosita, during the offseason before 2005 spring training. Because of the press of adoring fans, they don't go out to eat. But they do go to an occasional movie. Mostly, Miguel likes to sleep when he is not at the park.
- Miguel's favorite food is probably arepas—Venezuelan hot bread that can be eaten alone like toast or stuffed with almost anything edible. Cabrera prefers his arepas with butter and cheese, and he could eat them all day if he had to. "Delicious," he said. "I like them plain."
The only thing more important than baseball (and arepas) to Cabrera is his faith and his family. Cabrera's father Jose Miguel played semi-pro baseball in Venezuela while Cabrera's mother Gregoria was a member of the country's national softball team. Cabrera also has a sister, who although might be having a hard time being away from her friends in Venezuela right now, has been comforted so far by a shopping spree in Miami with her brother footing the bill.
"For me, family is the most fundamental thing in the world," Cabrera said. "I am here because I have had the support of my family and my wife all the time. I am a young man and I feel like a young man. I have grown up a lot, but you always need your family and it does not matter how young or old you are."
Rosangel is Cabrera's best friend and she keeps him grounded. She also keeps him laughing.
"They have a great relationship and I know that helps him a lot," said Rangers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, a former Marlins farmhand who was in Cabrera's wedding and serves as the couple's marriage sponsor in the Catholic church. "At first, when he would have a bad day, he would come home and she would say something encouraging and he would get mad because he said she wasn't saying the truth about how bad he played. Now, when he strikes out or makes an error, she tells him to retire, to quit and get a new career. It's really funny and I know he likes that humor." (Jesse Sanchez-MLB.com-3/20/05)
Miguel and Rosangel never talked about marriage for the first few years they dated. Rosangel at times wondered where the relationship was heading. She had been dating Miguel for a couple of months before he signed his first pro contract.
The next three years while Cabrera was in the minors, Rosangel would go six or eight months without seeing him. He would call every day, but sometimes Rosangel would tell him to phone once a week instead, hoping that would make the time go by faster.
Cabrera's proposal surprised everyone. When he looks back, marrying the girl he fell in love with in high school could prove the best decision of his life. Cabrera was a homebody before he left for the States. Once he got here, he didn't want to be Derek Jeter. He didn't want to be on any most-eligible-bachelor lists.
"The life of a ballplayer is very unstable," said Miguel, Sr., who at 21 married Miguel's mother, Gregoria. "Today they're here; tomorrow they're in another state. You have young players in good shape. All of a sudden they come into money, and the women are going to come from everywhere. I think being married he has a responsibility to get home early. He can't be out there partying like a lot of young players. When he made the decision to get married I respected it." (Juan C. Rodriguez-Florida Sun Sentinel-4/02/05)
On September 26, 2005, Cabrera was not in the Marlins' lineup because he violated an undisclosed team rule. Team management decided to sit him down for one game. Miguel supposedly arrived late for a game at Atlanta.
Asked if the message sent to Cabrera sunk in, manager Jack McKeon said, "I think so. He's a great kid. He's young. You treat them like their your own kids, and sometimes they don't do everything you like. You have to have a little chat with him. He's going to be fine." Miguel admitted that he overslept, which caused him to arrive late for the game.
March 2006: Cabrera was 4-for-19 (.211) in the World Baseball Classic, playing for Team Venezuela.
The Marlins were not happy with Cabrera when he didn't show up for the team's $200-a-plate awards dinner in February 2006, where he was to receive the team's Most Valuable Player award. Rather than applaud as he made his way on stage, attendees directed their appreciation toward a video montage on two giant screens. And he then missed the caravan and FanFest at Dolphin Stadium, saying he had family things to do.
But Miguel was disappointed that the Marlins didn't accept his reason for not attending. He told them he had a family matter, which was concerning a health issue with his father that he had committed to a month before the team notified Cabrera of the FanFest.
Miguel is a great dominos player. He runs the table.
During the winter before 2008 spring training, Cabrera worked with Sean O'Brien, founder of an athletic development company called Perfect Competition. Miguel lost about 20 pounds and gained strength. Before O'Brien tailored a program for him, Cabrera underwent a biomedical assessment and was evaluated by a massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor and nutritionist.
"Miguel is obviously a great athlete, but he needed to explore all of the new ways to train the body. He's leaner. He's combining weight loss with an increase in muscle mass," O'Brien said.
Workouts are about three or four hours a day and include aerobic exercises and weight training for virtually every area of the body. (Mike DiGiovanna-LA Times-12/04/07)
Tigers manager Jim Leyland became a real fan of Cabrera in 2008.
"I think Miguel Cabrera is one of the most instinctive and smartest players we have," Leyland said.
October 3, 2009: Birmingham, Michigan police chief, Richard Patterson, said Rosangel Cabrera called 911 at 6:00 a.m. Saturday, requesting police assistance. A blood-alcohol test found that Miguel Cabrera was at 0.26, more than three times the legal limit for driving, the police said. “We determined that they both contributed to the domestic assault,” Patterson said. “It was minor in nature.”
No charges will be filed, and both Cabreras refused medical attention. Cabrera was picked up at the police station around 7:30 a.m. Saturday by Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski.
Over a month before the incident, team officials told Miguel to stay out of the Townsend Hotel after he allegedly challenged patrons to a fight at the hotel's Rugby Grille bar and intimated he had a gun. Cabrera returned to the Townsend, only to go home drunk and get into a fight with his wife, police said.
Miguel apologized to teammates, fans, and management for causing a distraction.
November 2009 through January 2010: Cabrera spent three months in a treatment program for alcoholism. He said it has turned his life around.
He has done a complete clean-up. No more booze. No cave-ins with his personal responsibilities. Miguel attacked his alcohol problems with the focus and energy he exhibits in hitting a baseball. He understood the consequences, the waste, the affront—to others, as well as himself. His last drink was in October 2009, and he says he doesn't miss it at all. When he is at dinner or with friends, he drinks water, or perhaps apple or orange juice.
Cabrera now comes into the clubhouse relaxed, conversational, with business on his mind. He insists his difficulties were not a clinical case of alcoholism. He does not go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. (Lynn Henning-Detroit News-June 2010)
February 16, 2011: Cabrera was arrested on charges of driving under the influence after a traffic stop around 11:00 p.m. in Fort Pierce, Florida. According to an arrest report published by the Treasure Coast Newspapers, a St. Lucie County police deputy pulled over Cabrera around 11:00 p.m. upon spotting smoke coming out of the engine of the car he was driving.
Cabrera reportedly smelled of alcohol, and his speech was slurred. The sheriff's office reported that he took a drink from a bottle of scotch he had in the car. Additional deputies were called to the scene when he become uncooperative.
So Cabrera underwent a rehab program. And as part of it, former Major League OF Raul Gonzalez served as Miguel's companion throughout the 2011 season.
May 25, 2010: Miguel flew home to Florida to be with his wife, Rosangel for the birth of their second child, a baby girl, Isabella Cabrera.
August 25, 2011: Cabrera was with his wife, Rosangel, when she gave birth to their third child, Christopher Alexander.
In 2011, Cabrera was the unanimous choice to receive the Luis Aparicio Award. Venezuelan and Spanish-speaking baseball writers vote each year on the award, presented to the most prominent Venezuelan baseball player in the regular season. Cabrera also won the award in 2005.
In 2012, Miguel won the AL MVP. He was listed first on 22 of the 28 BBWAA ballots, with Mike Trout receiving the other first place votes.
In 2013, Cabrera repeated as AL MVP, winning by a comfortable margin with 23 of the 30 first place votes from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Miguel became the first player to win two consecutive AL MVPs since Frank Thomas for the White Sox in 1993 and 1994. Albert Pujols won the NL MVP in 2008 and 2009.
His latest hobby is archery. Miguel used to play golf. He didn't enjoy it because he's a terrible golfer. Miggy is a great archer. Miggy loves archery.
Cabrera is blessed with physical gifts—a hawk's vision, a bear's legs, a pianist's hands, the torso of a lumberjack—and he is a hard worker.
Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski says Miguel is "an encyclopedia of pitchers." He studies their hitting charts, intensely observes their pitches from the dugout and, legend has it, remembers every pitch by every starting pitcher he's ever faced. But there is a limit: He doesn't like game tape. I leads to overthinking, and he thinks too much as it is.
Cabrera is a goofy guy who plays baseball with unbridled joy, puts only family before team, respects his teammates, and adores children. But he hates the spotlight.
"Love movies," Miguel says. "It starts when I met my girlfriend in Venezuela." That girl, now his wife, Rosangel, was 13 at the time. The teenagers spent most dates at the theater, and six years after they met, Cabrera, by that point a Marlin, returned to Venezuela to claim the only woman he'd ever loved.
"Because we were so young," Cabrera says, "her family doesn't like it. But we said, 'This is what we want."
They wed in a church, "and when we return to U.S. we go to any movie. And we buy some movies." (Some means over 1,000 DVDs. He loves comedies, she prefers scary movies.) "I get bad dreams," Miguel says. "Like Se7en—Oh my God, that's scary."
The Cabreras had three children in a six year span: Rosangel, whom everyone calls Brisel, was first; followed by Isabella and Christopher.
"When Brisel was born, I was 22," Miguel laughs. "I was excited to play with her."
He says the whole family loves Disney World, and "I go every chance, a dream come true." He can't count the number of times he's been to the park, but his teammates says it's a lot. He buys his own Mickey T-shirts and waits in line with everyone else. "At Disney, you can do anything," he says, still in awe. "So much fun."
June 17, 2013: Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers duo, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was labeled as the "Bash Bros: Baseball's 21st-Century Version of Mantle and Maris."
June 26, 2013: Opposing managers and players have talked in awe all season about watching Miguel Cabrera hit the ball.
After a recent two-run home run, Cabrera became only the sixth player since 1920 with at least 1,200 RBIs and 300 homers in his first 11 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He joins the rare list that includes Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Bagwell and Albert Pujols.
"He's hitting in one of worst hitter's ballparks I've ever seen," Indians manager Terry Francona said in 2013. "To be a power hitter here and put up the numbers he's hitting—jog out to right-center, it's a haul. And he doesn't get any light hits. So what he's doing is unbelievable."
"I probably throw the best changeup I've ever thrown in my life to a guy that's just on a whole other playing field," Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester said earlier this week after giving up a home run to Cabrera. "I wish he'd quit and go to a different league—make a league especially for him."
Cabrera is both a Catholic and a practitioner of Santería. He became a babalao in the 2006 offseason.
Santeria (Way of the Saints) is an Afro-Caribbean religion based on Yoruba beliefs and traditions, with some Roman Catholic elements added. The religion is also known as La Regla Lucumi and the Rule of Osha.
Santeria is a syncretic religion that grew out of the slave trade in Cuba.
With his own foundation dedicated to helping spread baseball by renovating fields, plus multiple fund-raising efforts for worthy causes during the season, Cabrera has become arguably the Tigers' biggest community presence. His work earned him a second consecutive honor as the club's nominee for Major League Baseball's prestigious Roberto Clemente Award for 2013.
Cabrera established his foundation in 2011 to help renovate youth baseball fields. Cabrera's foundation just helped renovate a field in his native Maracay, Venezuela, but also has targeted places to help in Detroit as well as Miami, his offseason home. Among the goals for, both with his foundation and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, is to repair a baseball diamond at Clark Park in southwest Detroit.
"We're trying to save fields, to have a chance for kids to go out there and have fun, try to give them the opportunity to go out there and stay off the street," Cabrera said at a fundraiser in 2013. "I'm trying to give them a chance to play baseball for fun. When you're a kid, you play to have fun."
Cabrera also has become the annual host of Keeping Kids in the Game, an August fundraiser to help support children's health and youth baseball programs facilitated by the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
"When you have time, you need to give something back," Cabrera said. "It's not only about playing baseball. It's about interacting with the fans and trying to do something for the kids." (Beck - mlb.com - 9/16/13)
2013 Player Choice Awards: For the second consecutive year, Cabrera was chosen by his peers as the Player of the Year and American League Outstanding Player. Once again, Miguel compiled one of the most impressive seasons in Major League Baseball history by leading the American League in batting average and finishing second to Chris Davis of the Orioles in home runs and RBIs. Miguel batted .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs, and his success at the plate helped propel the Detroit Tigers to the American League Central Division title.
Cabrera was named the starting first baseman for the 2014 and 2015 All-Star Game.
June 2015: Christopher Alexander Cabrera was helping make someone's dream come true, even if the 3-year-old isn't quite old enough to understand it yet. It's a hot, humid day in the Motor City, and Miguel is taking a break from batting practice to play catch with his son and with Michael Rostker, a 12-year-old who has cancer and is visiting through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Michael throws to Miguel, who catches the ball and hands it to Christopher Alexander for the return delivery.After a few minutes, Cabrera begins lobbing throws back to Michael as if they were popups.
Christopher Alexander tries to imitate his father but accidentally launches the ball at Michael's family, who are standing nearby. Miguel laughs, pauses for a picture, then takes Christopher Alexander's hand as the two disappear down the dugout steps and into the Tigers' clubhouse. To Michael, the experience "means the world." To Christopher Alexander, it's just another day as the son of one of baseball's biggest stars. And to Cabrera, watching his son grow old enough to share meaningful time with him at the ballpark has been a special part of this season. "It's an awesome time being a dad," Cabrera said. "The things you want to remember all your life — I think that's what it's all about." (Zuniga - mlb.com - 6/19/15).
December 2016: Cabrera committed to play for Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
- In the winter of 2016-2017, Miguel added boxing to his training routine this offseason on the advice of Venezuelan boxer Jorge Linares.
Feb 18, 2017: Miggy arrived in spring camp with a heavy heart. As Cabrera begins his 10th season with the Tigers, he has two motivations to fight for victories this year.
This spring, he wants to help Venezuela win a World Baseball Classic title for his troubled homeland. "We need to give something to our country," Cabrera said, "because our country's in bad shape right now. There's a lot of problems in Venezuela. It's like two sides. Politics is hard. I think sports can help any country get together. I think sports can bring a lot of happiness to people."
When the MLB season opens, he wants to win in memory of Mike Ilitch, the late Tigers owner who pushed to bring Cabrera to Detroit and then signed him to two long-term deals.
"We come into Spring Training a little sad," Cabrera said. "But at the same time, we come in like we need to keep going and need this for him. He always dreamed about a World Series champion. We never gave him the chance. We have extra motivation, so we need to be here and do extra and try to be our best this season."
Arguably no one shows as much pure joy on a baseball field as Cabrera. That enthusiasm showed as he worked around the back fields at Tigertown during the first full-squad workout of camp. As Cabrera talked following the workout, though, his tone was somber. His home country's turmoil and his team's mourning weigh on him.
Cabrera's arrival to Detroit is one of the defining moments of Ilitch's legacy. It wasn't simply about winning. Cabrera was the chance to add a young superstar and future Hall of Famer, like Ilitch had done with the NHL's Red Wings. He authorized then-GM Dave Dombrowski to make a run when the Marlins put Cabrera on the market.
"He gave me this opportunity to be in Detroit," Cabrera said. "He signed me for a lot of years, and every time I'd see him, I'd always say, 'Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be in Detroit.' Detroit is part of my family and part of my life, my home. "He was always great to me. Every time he went to the stadium, he'd come down to my locker and we'd talk."
He works hard to give back to Venezuela through his foundation, but political turmoil makes it hard to visit.
"It's hard to leave your country," he said. "It's hard to go back and stay over there. I mean, when I went back to Venezuela, I went for one week. I used to live there. Now I live here in the United States. When you leave your country, it's hard to leave your family over there. My whole family is in Venezuela. I don't want to think about it, because it's hard. People living in Venezuela, they're in hard times right now. I worry about them." (J Beck - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2017)
THE DIESEL BROTHERS
Miguel played his final home game of 2017 Spring Training under the Florida sun. He cleaned up, donned some of his branded clothes for street gear, and got back into the batter's box at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium to play some ball with a couple of guys who consider themselves fans.
His efforts were under the camera. A segment was taped for an episode of Discovery Channel's "Diesel Brothers." The show teamed up with MLB Network for a baseball-themed episode in which Cabrera orders a custom diesel truck to drive around Detroit.
It's a new venture for Cabrera, a car enthusiast. "I like old cars because my grandfather used to be a mechanic in Venezuela," Cabrera said. "I like to build cars and trucks."
Asked what he's seeking for a truck, Cabrera said, "Something big, powerful, loud. It's going to be something for charity, too." Cabrera hopes to use the custom truck as part of his foundation work in Detroit and Miami. But he also needs to be able to drive it around town, which makes it an interesting project.
"The way he was describing it, he wants his truck to look like him — big, strong, bold," said Heavy D, who headlines the Diesel Brothers along with Diesel Dave. "It's not going to be that difficult of a build as long as we don't take it too over the top, because he's got to drive this thing every day. It's going to be an end-user truck. It's got to be legal where he is."
They can do that. While some of their projects can take two to three months, this one should take two to four weeks, by Heavy D's estimation, to complete at their shop in Salt Lake City. Before that, though, they had some fun at the ballpark with Cabrera, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and former Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena. The latter two are currently MLB Network analysts.
"I love it," said Diesel Dave, who said he was a catcher and third baseman in high school. "We got to swing at pitches that Pedro was throwing at us. We got to run the bases with Carlos, catch, field grounders. It's a dream come true." (Beck - mlb.com - 3/29/17)
Cabrera has spent nearly a decade making the spacious Comerica Park look small. The Diesel Brothers built him a truck that made it look even smaller.
The look on Cabrera's face when he saw his custom off-road rig was priceless when they wheeled it onto the infield last month. The public will finally get to see it when the new All-Star episode of Diesel Brothers airs on Discovery Channel. (The first episode aired June 18, 2017. The conclusion aired June 20.) It was a new adventure for Cabrera, a noted car enthusiast.)
"I like old cars because my grandfather used to be a mechanic in Venezuela," he said in Spring Training, where the first scenes were filmed. "I like to build cars and trucks."
It was also a new venture in the sports world for the Diesel Brothers, who knew about Cabrera but had never met him. It didn't take them long to realize what he had in mind.
"The original hardest part was trying to figure out what to do," said Heavy D, who along with Diesel Dave headlines the Diesel Brothers, "because we've done a lot of cool stuff, and typically these builds can quickly go from street-legal, to full-on show trucks that nobody should be driving. So it was keeping it under the bar without going completely crazy. We ended up blending two different GM vehicles into one, and it's not an easy thing to do, especially with the two vehicles that we chose. There's a lot of custom body work done, but if you look at it, you'd probably think it came straight from the factory that way."
The ideas came out of a conversation they had in the spring. While Heavy D, Diesel Dave and Diesel Brothers crewmember Redbeard had a chance to take the field at Joker Marchant Stadium, and Heavy D pitched off the mound, they also talked trucks.
"He's got a busy schedule. We've got a busy schedule. We had to build something based off of a 10-minute conversation," Heavy D said. "The nice thing is, he's an easy guy to read, talking to him. He kept on using the word bestia." That's beast in Spanish.
"That conversation turned into a huge landslide of ideas that we had," Heavy D continued. "We went back and forth. The truck was going to be orange, and then it was going to be blue, and then it was going to have colored suspension parts. And then it just hit us one day."
From there, the gang went to work at their shop in Utah. The result was a massive 2016 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD, outfitted with a Cadillac Escalade front clip and custom detailing. The truck borders on monster size; massive but still street-legal. The custom suspension was fitting for the Michigan roads. They didn't get to drive it to Detroit, but they drove it around town.
"We put a huge lift on it, probably bigger than most trucks we ever lift, and it rides smoother than a stock truck," Heavy D said. "We found a couple potholes."
Cabrera put the truck on display during his annual Keeping Kids in the Game charity event at Comerica Park on July 27. There, he'll auction the truck, with proceeds supporting the Miguel Cabrera Foundation, the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities. (Jason Beck - MLB.com - June 18, 2017)
July 10, 2017: Cabrera is one of several Venezuelan baseball stars who's worried about family members impacted by the turmoil in the South American nation.
Cabrera posted videos to his Instagram account — which have since been removed — in which he spoke up against corruption while pleading for the safety of his family, according to ESPN news services.
In the clips, he said he's "sick of paying protection money against the threat" and that "they are going to kidnap my mother."
Sept 2-8, 2017: Cabrera had his suspensions reduced by one game after reaching a settlement with Major League Baseball on his appeal from the bench-clearing fracas with the Yankees. Cabrera will serve a six-game suspension. Cabrera was originally suspended seven games for inciting the incident
Cabrera's suspension resulted from the first of three benches-clearing incidents Aug. 24 against the Yankees. Cabrera began arguing with catcher Austin Romine after Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle threw behind him and was ejected. Cabrera shoved Romine, the two exchanged punches and the benches cleared.
Spring 2018: A day before Detroit Tigers' spring training officially got under way in Lakeland, FL, Cabrera was 55 miles away, pleading his case in an Orlando courtroom as his ex-mistress requests additional child support for their two children.
On Feb. 12, Cabrera is expected to be in attendance for a temporary-relief hearing, during which a judge is expected to rule if Belkis Mariela Rodriguez should receive more than the monthly payments she's already been receiving while the lawsuit, filed in August, continues to drag on, with no end in sight.
The sides have been in mediation since October, to no avail, and with the season fast approaching, it's quite possible a final resolution in the matter could be months out.
Rodriguez, the mother of two young children Cabrera isn't contesting are his, has been receiving payments in excess of $12,000 per month for several months. Early last year, Cabrera also helped Rodriguez purchase a nearly $1-million Spanish colonial home in a swanky Orlando neighborhood, overlooking a golf course.
Rodriguez, however, is claiming she's entitled to more, arguing through her attorney that Cabrera should be paying her a similar amount to what he spends on the three children he has with his wife, Rosangel. (Tony Paul -The Detroit News- Feb. 2, 2018)
April 4, 2018: Belkis Rodriguez—the former mistress of Cabrera—was awarded $12,000 per month in child support.
Miguel likes to kid around, including when he talks to reporters. But a lot of times, he has a point to his playful jabs. So when he was asked about aggravating the back issues that plagued him in 2017, his answer had a playful tone, but also an edge to it.
"I went through that last year," he said, "so I don't want to do the same thing. Nobody appreciates when you play hurt, so I'm going to take my time and play when I'm good. I played a lot of years hurt here in Detroit."
Cabrera played through what turned out to be a groin tear on his way to a third consecutive batting title in 2013. A year later, he played through a broken foot on his way to a 52-double season. In both cases, he played hurt to try to help the Tigers in the postseason, and he was still an elite hitter.
He's older and wiser in 2018, and the Tigers are playing for the future. He's also paying the physical toll for playing hurt. That includes 2017, when Cabrera played through back issues and posted the worst offensive season of his illustrious career.
So as the former Triple Crown winner tries to rehab his strained right hamstring and keep his back from flaring up, he's going to make sure he's back to full strength before he returns to action.
"When you are doing bad, they crush you," Cabrera said. "They say you are bad, you should go home, you don't deserve anything, that you are old. I'm done playing hurt. When you are going good, they say, 'Oh, oh, you're good.' Now I take my time." (Beck - mlb.com - 5/16/18)
May 2018: The increasingly contentious paternity case filed against Cabrera will finally go to trial five days after the end of the World Series. A trial has been set for Nov. 5 in front of Judge Alan S. Apte in Orlando, Fla., according to court records filed this week.
Dec 14, 2018: Oh my god, this tattoo of Miguel Cabrera's face is insane. We've seen baseball fans get some pretty bonkers tattoos over the years. There was that Rangers fan who got a tattoo of Rougned Odor punching Jose Bautista, the Mets fan who lost a bet and got Bartolo Colon inked on his arm, and Cut4's own Michael Clair has Sandy Koufax as a skeleton tattooed on his upper arm. And now, we have a new submission to the Crazy Baseball Fan Tattoo Hall of Fame.
Venezuelan baseball fan Jesus Vargas got this thing tatted on his forearm and thankfully Miguel Cabrera himself added it to his Instagram story, sharing it with the world. The commitment to detail is downright incredible.( Jake Mintz - Dec 14, 2018)
Jan 24, 2019: The last time Miguel Cabrera talked at Comerica Park was just before the left biceps surgery that ended his 2018 season. He was around from time to time last summer, but he kept a low profile, away from the games. As Cabrera talked with reporters at the ballpark to open the Tigers' annual Winter Caravan, chatting with teammates and checking in with management, he felt like he had just rejoined the team.
"At first, it feels kind of weird," Cabrera said. "But right now, it feels like you're back in baseball. [My goals are to] get back out there for Spring Training and try to get ready for the season, try to have a good season."
Everything Cabrera has done so far this offseason suggests he'll be ready for the season. He has been swinging a bat for the past month, he has picked up his normal offseason workout regimen, and he said he's on track to report to Spring Training with no restrictions. Whether Cabrera can have a good season by his standards is the big question. That won't be clear until after the Tigers break camp and head north in late March.
Asked if he can be a dangerous hitter again, Cabrera smiled. "I want to be dangerous," he said. "You have to be confident at home plate. Not like you have to be cocky, something like that, but you have to be confident and feel like you can still do it. I'm going to play my best."
Cabrera won four batting titles in a five-year stretch, including a Triple Crown in 2012. He fell out of batting-title contention in 2016, but still hit .316 that year with 38 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .956 OPS, keeping him among baseball's most feared hitters. Since then, a series of injuries — back, groin, biceps, hamstring — have limited his effectiveness when they haven't sidelined him. After batting just .249 with a .728 OPS in 2017, Cabrera hit .299 with three homers, 22 RBIs and an .843 OPS last year before his left biceps tendon ruptured. Most of that production came in the season's opening month, before a right hamstring strain landed him on the disabled list.
Even with those struggles, Cabrera heads into 2019 with the best career batting average among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, a fraction of a point ahead of good friend and fellow Venezuelan Jose Altuve. Cabrera's .946 career OPS ranks third among that contingent, behind Mike Trout and Joey Votto.
Cabrera doesn't claim to know whether he can get back to that old form. But he wants to be healthy enough to find out. "I want to be back," he said. "Right now, I feel healthy."
General manager Al Avila told reporters he believes Cabrera will remain with the Tigers for the rest of his career.
Cabrera's contract runs through 2023, the year of his 40th birthday, with vesting options for 2024 and 2025. He should hit milestones with his 3,000th hit (he's currently 324 hits away) and 500 home runs (currently 35 off). Those marks aren't on Cabrera's mind right now. He wants to help this team dig out from back-to-back 98-loss seasons, which is why the proud defender is open to playing some DH, if that's what manager Ron Gardenhire asks him to do.
"If the team's better if they put me at DH, I'm going to do it," he said. "If they think it's better to put me at first base, I'm going to do it. I'm open to everything." (J Beck - MLB.com - Jan 24, 2019)
You aren't truly a star until you've been given a nickname, whether you're The Man, the Kid or Big Sexy.
But the nickname is not just an American phenomenon: Fans of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, or CPBL, have their very own nickname system. And just as many English language nicknames are based on puns, these nicknames are also largely based on the player names' phonetic similarity to Mandarin words.
Rob Liu, who runs CPBLStats.com -- one of the greatest English-language information sources on the league -- spoke to MLB.com from his home in Taiwan to introduce us to these glorious nicknames, and to give a little more info for some of them.
Though these nicknames may not be as popular with non-baseball fans, Liu says, "If you are really into baseball, [fans] will know these sorts of names."
Here are some of the best. We've included the Mandarin spelling of each nickname and its pronunciation to help illuminate their lore.
Corey Kluber: Uncle Skeleton 骷髏伯 (Ku-Lou-Bo)
Bartolo Colon: Eight-headed Dragon 八頭龍 (Ba-Tou-Long)
Francisco Lindor: Chairman Lin 林董 (Lin-Dom)
"In the business world in Taiwan, if you're a chairman, they always use your last name and add 'Dom.' So, if you're Lin, you're Lin-Dom."
Miguel Cabrera: Ricecake 米糕 (Mi Gao)
Dallas Keuchel: Mouth Open 開口 (Kai Kou)
Albert Pujols: The Bionic Man 生化人 (Sheng Hua Ren)
"This is more for Pujols' performance and the way he plays than how it sounds." Note: It's also a play on his American nickname, The Machine.
Justin Morneau: Ferocious Bull 猛牛 (Meng Niou)
"Morneau is a ferocious bull and Morneau hit well for the organization. So, you put two and two together."
Chi-Chi Gonzalez and Didi Gregorius: Chip and Dale 救難小福星 Chi-Chi and Di-Di
"Whenever those two have a matchup, the people of Taiwan call them Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers. Because in Taiwan, we call Chip and Dale, Chi Chi and Didi." (Michael Clair -MLB.com-Feb. 28, 2019)
Miguel Cabrera's candy company, officially launched in 2016 and rolled out in grand fashion at Comerica Park in May 2017, has melted down into dueling lawsuits.
Cabrera and his umbrella company, Miggy Foods, sued first last July, claiming his two business partners financially mismanaged the company, spending lavishly on themselves and luxurious office space, even as the business wasn't making a nickel of profit.
The partners, Venezuelan businessman Daniel Satine and Venezuelan marketing professional Yajaira Gonzalez, responded and countersued this month, claiming Cabrera, the company's majority shareholder, became despondent and all but abandoned the company as his personal life was in turmoil.
Each side is suing for in excess of $750,000 in damages.
It appears Miggy Foods is no longer in operation. While its website still is live, it hasn't updated in more than a year and nobody answered the phone number listed; the social-media accounts also are idle, with its last Instagram post coming in July 2017. (Tony Paul - The Detroit News - April 22, 2019)
- Oct 2019: This is not how a legend was expected to age, not a former Triple Crown winner and four-time batting champion who has made a case for the greatest hitter of his generation. But this is what Miguel Cabrera faces as he heads into the 2020 season.
“Sometimes you pay the price when you play for a lot of years,” Cabrera said this summer. “Sometimes you pay the price when you play when you’re hurt.”
Cabrera knows how the aging process works. He watched his former Tigers teammate and fellow Venezuelan Magglio Ordonez go through it a decade ago after winning a batting title in 2007. Ordonez was limited to 84 games -- most of them in right field -- in his age-36 season in 2010, but batted .303 with 12 home runs, 59 RBIs and an .852 OPS. A year later, Ordonez was a quiet catalyst behind the stretch run that vaulted the Tigers to the first of their four consecutive American League Central titles, until a broken ankle in the ALCS ended his career.
As Cabrera nears his 37th birthday, he has become a designated hitter who hopes to be able to play first base every so often next season, 2020. His march to 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, while still an eventuality, has slowed. At the same time, he was the best hitter in the Tigers’ lineup for the stretch run, especially after they traded Nicholas Catellanos to the Cubs at the Deadline. Barring a surprise roster addition, Cabrera will most likely go into next season as the best hitter in the Detroit nine.
At some point this month, Cabrera is likely to get word from doctors on what, if anything, he can do to mitigate the impact his balky right knee has on his game. His knee can’t be fixed, and he knows it, but he wants to know what he can do to avoid a repeat of the painful season he endured in 2019.
“Playing with this the last four or five months gave me a better idea about what I need to do for next year,” Cabrera said. “If I can come in strong and in better shape, I think I will be able to do a little bit more.
“But I will see what the doctors say about what might work, what can I work, what kind of workout can I do to get in better shape and be 100 percent next year.”
What Went Right
Cabrera’s 136 games played and 549 plate appearances were his highest marks in both categories since 2016. It wasn’t easy, and he certainly wasn’t at full strength for many -- if any -- of those games, but the day-in, day-out routine allowed him to regain his role as a key authority on the team. It also allowed him to rework his swing to take pressure off his aching right knee and put it on his healthier left, an impressive midseason adjustment for someone who has relied on the same swing for nearly his entire career.
Despite the numbers, Cabrera was the veteran run producer the Tigers needed him to be. His .369 average (41-for-111) with runners in scoring position was third-highest in Major League Baseball among hitters with at least 100 at-bats in such situations. He batted .298 (48-for-161) with an .839 OPS from July 29 to season’s end.
What Went Wrong
A whole lot. Not only did the bulk Cabrera carried in hopes of regaining his home-run power not help as intended, it hurt, putting pressure on his back, knee and ankle. The knee was an issue for nearly the entire season, limiting him to DH duties and sidelining him for stretches to manage it.
Strategically, the Tigers had been planning for the eventuality of Cabrera being an everyday DH for some time. But the abruptness of the move forced manager Ron Gardenhire to adjust, leaving a void at first base that Detroit struggled to fill with a productive bat.
Cabrera’s .398 slugging percentage was the lowest of his 17-year Major League career. His .744 OPS marked just his second season under .750, both in the last three years. His drop in extra-base power, combined with his limited mobility -- he was the slowest Tiger in terms of sprint speed as well as split times from home to first base -- left him stranded on base often.
A couple days after Cabrera received the diagnosis about chronic changes in his right knee, he returned to the lineup on June 4 and hit a go-ahead grand slam off defending AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. It was Cabrera’s first grand slam in six years and first home run of any kind at Comerica Park since April 2018, which brought a roar from the crowd and the Tigers dugout.
“I mean, we're just literally sitting here watching a little bit of history,” rookie outfielder Christin Stewart said at the time.
No matter what doctors tell Cabrera he can do about his knee, he enters next season at a crossroads with four more guaranteed seasons on his contract.
“There's not a lot they can do. Surgery's not an option. It is what it is with his leg,” Gardenhire said two weeks ago. “He's going to have to play through this thing. I think his workout regimen is going to be to try to lose weight, get a little more weight off of that thing. That will probably help him out. He's going to work hard, try to lose weight, see if that will help.”
If Cabrera sheds weight, he will likely sacrifice power for agility and bat speed. He could be a .300 hitter again, but 25 home runs seems like a stretch. It’s a trade-off he’s willing to make in order to stay on the field and be productive at the plate. To do that, he will likely have to regain his effectiveness hitting to the opposite field. (J Beck - MLB.com - Oct 10, 2019)
Nov 12, 2019: The Tigers will spend the offseason searching for a run producer to plug into their lineup, likely in the outfield or at first base, general manager Al Avila confirmed from baseball's General Managers Meetings. But their best chance at an offensive uptick is a healthy return for Miguel Cabrera. At this point, Avila made clear, those chances for health are in Cabrera's hands, and their attachment to workout equipment.
"He's committed to a rigorous offseason program," Avila told reporters, including MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, from the GM Meetings. "If he commits to it 100 percent like the way it looks like it's going right now, he should be fine."
The message from doctors after season's end, as expected, was that there's no surgery to fix the chronic changes in Cabrera's right knee. His best hope at staying healthy and being productive is to strengthen the leg and shed some weight.
"For him, it's all about maintaining his strength and conditioning program, and obviously his diet," Avila said. "These are things that are important for him to stay healthy. The injuries that he has suffered and the surgeries that he's been under are not going away. They're there to stay. There's no surgery to fix what he's already got, so the only way is to really maintain yourself.
"It's no different than a pitcher going through a shoulder program. If a pitcher maintains his shoulder program religiously throughout the season, chances are he's going to stay healthy. If a guy gets lazy and all of a sudden he abandons that program and he does it off and on and he's not, let's say, committed to it, then chances are he might not make it through the season. Now, that doesn't mean you're still not going to get injured. Injuries will happen no matter how hard you work. But at the end of the day, it behooves you to do everything you can to stay healthy."
Though Cabrera's 136 games played this year were his most in a season since 2016, he was hampered for many of them, and limited to designated hitter after receiving his diagnosis in June. He batted .282 (139-for-493) with 21 doubles, 12 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .744 OPS. His .398 slugging percentage was the lowest of his 17-year Major League career.
After a ruptured biceps tendon and other injuries limited him to just 38 games in 2018, Cabrera reported to Spring Training at his usual weight in hopes of regaining power in his swing. The ensuing knee issues forced him to revamp his swing, putting weight on his healthier left leg. Cabrera eventually adjusted, batting .298 with an .839 OPS in his final 44 games, but he was limited in mobility. He rarely played day games after night games as the Tigers tried to manage the issue.
Cabrera acknowledged near 2019 season's end that he'll need to lose weight this offseason to ease the wear and tear. He also said he'd like to return to first base at least occasionally next season, something Avila was noncommittal on.
"In a perfect world, I would say for his sake, for our sake, being the full-time DH is probably the best thing to stay healthy," Avila said. "Right now, sitting here in the wintertime, I can't [say] that he won't play first base again. We'll just have to see how good he feels, how hard he has worked to put himself in that situation."
Cabrera has four more seasons guaranteed on the eight-year contract extension he signed in 2015. With 2,815 career hits and 477 home runs, he's within reach of the exclusive 3,000-hit and 500-homer clubs, most likely in 2021. But he has to stay healthy and productive to get there.
Even if Cabrera approaches his old form, the Tigers need help for an offense that ranked at or near the bottom of the American League in several major categories. Not surprisingly, finding a hitter to help is one of Avila's offseason priorities.
"We definitely would like to bring in somebody that can help our lineup," he said. "We do need to help some of these young guys out. What position [that hitter would fill], whether it be in the outfield or first base, we don't know yet. Right now, we're setting the groundwork here to see what we can come up with acquiring."
The Tigers will also look for a veteran catcher to work alongside Grayson Greiner and prospect Jake Rogers, according to Avila. Detroit signed former Draft pick Kade Scivicque to a Minor League deal to provide depth in the farm system.
"We definitely need catching help at the Major League level and depth overall," Avila said. "So catching's an area, like hitting, of importance this winter, for sure." (J Beck - MLB.com - Nov 12, 2019)
July 3, 1999: At midnight, the Marlins signed Cabrera the moment he became eligible at age 16. The deal, which began in the year 2000, was worth $1.9 million.
Miguel received substantially higher offers from other clubs—$2.2 million from the Dodgers and even more by the Yankees — but he chose to sign with the Marlins for several reasons, including an admiration for fellow countryman and Marlins SS Alex Gonzalez.
"We decided to sign with the Marlins because the scouts were really good to us," Cabrera's father, Miguel, Sr. said. "We felt like they were our family."
February 17, 2007: Cabrera won his salary arbitration case over the Marlins, gaining the $7.4 million salary he sought. The figure was $700,000 more than the Marlins had offered.
December 4, 2007: The Tigers sent OF Cameron Maybin, P Andrew Miller, C Mike Rabelo and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop to the Marlins; acquiring Cabrera and P Dontrelle Willis.
January 18, 2008: Miguel and the Tigers avoided salary arbitration when they agreed to a one-year contract for $11 million.
But on March 22, 2008, Cabrera and the Tigers agreed on an eight-year, $152 million contract extension. The pact became the fourth-largest contract in baseball history, trailing only the Yankees' A-Rod ($275 million), Derek Jeter, also of the Yanks ($189 million), and Red Sox OF Manny Ramirez ($160 million) in the total salary package listing.
March 27, 2014: Cabrera and the Tigers agreed on an eight-year contract that pays him $248 million. Miguel can also earn up to $4 million annually in award bonuses. That includes $2 million for MVP and $1 million for a Triple Crown. For 2014 and 2015, his bonuses remain the same as they were in his previous deal.
Cabrera already was due $44 million over those two years, salaries incorporated into his record $292 million, 10-year contract. The agreement includes $30 million options for 2024 and 2025 that become guaranteed if Cabrera is among the top 10 in MVP voting the previous season.