Miguel Cabrera biography
Date of birth : 1983-04-18
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Maracay, Venezuela
Nationality : Venezuelan
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-10-16
Credited as : Baseball player MLB, first base with the Detroit Tigers ,
Jose Miguel Torres Cabrera was born on April 18, 1983 in Maracay, Venezuela. Baseball was in his blood from the time he entered the world. His parents, Miguel and Gregoria, met on a baseball diamond. Both had been excellent players in their day.
Miguel’s father was a highly regarded amateur player whose dreams of a pro career ultimately went unfulfilled. Miguel’s mother was the shortstop on the Venezuelan national softball team for 14 years. She spent many years after that tutoring kids in Maracay. Her brother, David Torres, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and made it to Class-AA before his career stalled.
Miguel grew up as a baseball brat. When he wasn’t toddling around the dugout at Gregoria’s games or playing with his father and uncle, all he had to do to watch a game was hop the fence that separated his backyard from the rightfield line at Maracay Stadium, which was later named for Uncle David, who died of a heart attack in 1997. In the year before he passed away, Torres worked with Miguel almost every day, imparting to him his baseball wisdom and warning him of the pitfalls a young Venezuelan could expect to encounter in North American baseball.
For the Cabreras, life revolved around family—and baseball. Miguel lived with his mom and dad and younger sister Ruth in the La Padrera neighborhood, a poor area of his hometown. They were very close and got along with each other very well—provided the kids obeyed their parents and worked hard in school.
Miguel’s father, who later became an auto mechanic, remembered the heartbreak of his fizzled baseball career. He didn’t want the same thing for his son, so he asked Miguel to focus on becoming an engineer. But the youngster couldn’t stop thinking about baseball. He often fantasized about following in his footsteps of Dave Concepcion, the shortstop for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the 1970s. He was also a native of Maracay.
Basketball and volleyball also occupied Miguel’s time, but his thoughts were riveted to baseball throughout his childhood. By the age of six, he was good enough to play in national competitions. He even confided in his grandmother, Norbeta, that he wanted to play in the big leagues.
Miguel and his sister spent a good part of their childhood practicing with a stick as a bat and a wad of paper as a baseball. By the time Miguel reached his teenage years, Concepcion had become his primary mentor. Unlike the stick-thin rookie who debuted for the Reds in 1970, Miguel was already stocky and powerful, Though he possessed only average speed, he had a strong arm and a potent bat.
By the age 14, Miguel was confident enough in his abilities to tell his father that he had decided to pursue a pro career. The elder Cabrera said he would support his son, provided his schoolwork didn’t slip and he got his high\ school diploma.
The baseball bird dogs had already started sniffing around after Miguel at this point. The Minnesota Twins sent their scouting director, Mike Radcliff, to Venezuela to evaluate him. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers were also hot on Miguel’s trail. His favorite team was the Florida Marlins. He watched them win the 1997 World Series with key contributions from fellow Latinos Livan Hernandez and Edgar Renteria.
Florida scout Louie Eljaua held a workout for Miguel, who amazed him with his maturity and power. Eljaua called the Marlins brass and implored them to get out their checkbook. The bidding war for Miguel escalated when the Dodgers and Yankees both intimated they’d go as high as $2 million.
The Marlins, however, had the inside track. Their offer—$1.8 million—was more than generous enough, but Miguel’s parents were most impressed by the team’s commitment to developing young Hispanic players. Miguel had to wait until after his 16th birthday to sign. In the meantime, he accelerated his education. When Miguel signed with Florida in July of 1999, rumor has it that George Steinbrenner was so furious that he fired three of his Venezuela scouts.
That summer, still a year away from joining the Marlins, Miguel picked up invaluable experience playing for the equivalent of a farm team in Venezuela’s Winter League.
ON THE RISE
Miguel was assigned to Florida’s team in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to start the 2000 campaign. At 6-2 and 185 pounds, he was bigger than most prospects from Latin American countries. His skills were also advanced. Miguel had a wonderful feel for the strike zone, could spray the ball to all fields and responded well in the clutch. Defensively, he was somewhat limited at shortstop, but he had good hands and a rifle for an arm.
In 57 games in the GCL, Miguel hit .260 and showed gap power with 10 doubles, two triples and two home runs. He also scored 38 runs and drove in 22. The Marlins rewarded Miguel by promoting him to Utica of the Class A New York Penn League. There, in eight games, he batted .250 with six RBIs.
Miguel spent another offseason in winter ball back home in Venezuela. With a month to go in the campaign, he was called up to the Aragua Tigers, who installed him as their starting shortstop in place of Giomar Guevara. The teenager never blinked in the face of the pressure. In 27 games against what amounted to Triple-A competition, he posted a respectable .253 average.
Heading into 2001, Miguel was ready for another important year in his development. The Marlins bumped him up to the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League. There, he teamed with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the first overall pick in the 2000 draft, Miguel began the season at shortstop. Cougars manager Russ Mormon was charged with ushering both blue-chip prospects along on their way to the majors.
For Miguel, the ’01 campaign got off to a rocky start. Through the season’s first month, he was slumping at the plate and lost in the field. By early May, he had already committed 19 errors. Some in the organization wondered whether he wouldn’t be better served by a move to third base.
But Miguel fought through his struggles. Hitting coach Matt Winters helped by changing the youngster’s stance slightly, convincing him to be taller and more upright in the batter’s box. Over the next two months, Miguel raised his batting average to .279. He was most dangerous with runners on base. In one 37-game stretch, he drove home 35 runs and hit .467 with the bases loaded. Miguel also solved his problems in the field, cutting down significantly on his miscues.
In July, he and Gonzalez were both selected for the Futures Game during the All-Star weekend in Seattle. The Marlins, meanwhile, were thrilled that the pair had become close friends. Miguel was still learning the English language, so the California-born Gonzalez was the perfect running mate for him.
For perhaps the first time in his young career, Miguel showed some nerves. Stepping onto Safeco Field was an eye-opening experience for him. So was seeing Alex Rodriguez in person. As the DH for the World team, Miguel went 0-for-2 with a walk. His hitless day was also partly the result of his cross-country journey to the Great Northwest. Miguel had suffered from a stiff back earlier in the year, and switching planes a couple of times didn’t exactly loosen it up.
The rest of 2001 proceeded a lot smoother for Miguel. He ended the year at .268 with 30 extra-base hits and 66 RBIs. He also distinguished himself in the field with the strongest arm in the Midwest League.
After another offseason of winter ball, Miguel joined the Jupiter Hammerheads of the higher Class A Florida State League. There he transitioned to a new position, third base. The Marlins actually instituted the change in spring training, at the request of assistant coach Ozzie Guillen. The former All-Star shortstop had followed Miguel’s progress closely through the minors and felt he was better suited for the hot corner. Interested in finding the fastest path to the majors, Miguel didn’t fight the move at all.
While the defensive adjustment to third took some time, Miguel didn’t skip a beat at the plate. By July, his average stood at .277, and he led the Hammerheads with 45 RBIs. For the second year in a row, Miguel got the nod for the Futures Game. More relaxed this time around, he picked up two singles for the World team.
By this time, Miguel was also adjusting to married life. On June 17, he tied the knot with Rosangel, his high school sweetheart. The couple exchanged vows in a civil ceremony.
Miguel stayed hot over the final months for Jupiter. In 124 games, he batted .274 and added 43 doubles and 75 RBIs. Though his power had yet to show itself—Miguel recorded only nine homers in 489 at-bats—the Marlins weren’t concerned. Miguel’s knowledge of the strike zone was excellent, and it was only a matter of time before he began driving the ball.
The Marlins and Miguel figured he would spend at least one more season in the minors developing his power stroke. He started the 2003 campaign with the Carolina Mudcats of the Double-A Carolina League. Among his teammates was a high-kicking, crooked hat-wearing lefty named Dontrelle Willis. The two made life for Carolina manager Tracy Woodson very easy. Both had big-league talent, and both were willing to work hard on their weaknesses. Not that either showed many.
Midway through June, Miguel was tearing up the CL. In April, he hit .402, and by June his average stood at .365, with 10 homers and 59 RBIs.
MAKING HIS MARK
Things weren’t going nearly as well for the Marlins. For the first time since their 1997 championship, the team had entered the season with an eye toward the playoffs. The lineup was solid with center fielder Juan Pierre and second baseman Luis Castillo unnerving pitchers with their speed at the top of the lineup. Catcher Pudge Rodriguez, third baseman Mike Lowell and first baseman Derek Lee formed the heart of the order. At shortstop, Alex Gonzalez provided flashy defense and surprising power. The pitching staff was stacked with young arms. Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Mark Redman and Carl Pavano constituted one of the most promising rotations in the league, while Braden Looper was at times unhittable out of the pen.
But manager Jeff Torborg couldn’t get the pieces to fit. Injuries played a role, but the Marlins hadn’t clicked when healthy. By early May, Florida was languishing six games under .500, sinking in the standings beneath the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. The front office tried everything to jump-start the club. In May, the Marlins called up Willis. Two days later, Torborg was fired and replaced by 72-year-old Jack McKeon.
McKeon’s unconventional managing style stirred up the Marlins, who began turning things around. But the club was still losing as often as it won. Looking for another spark, Florida made another bold move. On June 20, the team promoted Miguel to the big leagues. Lowell was having a sensational year at third, so the Marlins plugged the 21-year-old into left field.
Carolina skipper Woodson had been preparing Miguel for this shift in positions, but he was still learning the ropes. The Marlins asked Andre Dawson to take a break from his front office job and tutor the youngster. Miguel took well to the lessons, picking up valuable insight about breaking on flyballs, throwing to the correct base and aligning himself properly against different hitters.
Miguel’s debut came in an interleague game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Hitless in his first four at-bats, including a groundout in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, he launched a walk-off home run to dead center in the 11th off Al Levine. As Miguel and his teammates celebrated, the stats freaks hit the record books. Miguel was the sixth-youngest player to homer in his first game, behind Scott Stratton (1888), Whitey Lockman (1945), Denny McLain (1963), Ted Tappe (1950) and Clint Hurdle (1977). He was also the third Venezuelan player to go deep in his debut, joining Alex Cabrera and his teammate Gonzalez.
Miguel’s father didn’t learn any of this until the following day. He had been tracking the game over the Internet, but fell asleep after the ninth. When he read the headlines the next morning, he bought every newspaper at his local bodega.
Miguel hit safely in four of his next five games, then went 0-for-15 to end the month. The rookie made the necessary adjustments and opened July with a four-hit, four-RBI effort against the Braves, the top team in the National League East. He remained hot all month long, batting .318 with five homers, eight doubles and 21 runs knocked in. He was named the league’s Rookie of the Month, following the lead of Willis, who had earned the honor in June.
With Miguel helping to re-energize the Marlins, the team started a run for the Wild Card. Florida suffered a setback when Lowell went down with a broken bone in his left hand, but GM Larry Beinfest swung into action with a trade for Jeff Conine. A member of the 1997 World Series champs, Comine assumed the leftfield job and Miguel came in to play third. Beinfest also acquired Ugueth Urbina to solidify the bullpen.
Another position change didn't phase Miguel. Growing more comfortable in his new surroundings, he settled into a nice groove. Miguel wasn't afraid to ask questions of his veteran teammates or put in extra hours on the practice field. The hard work paid dividends. In August, he posted an 11-game hitting streak, raising his average to .279.
By September, the Marlins had passed the Phillies in the race for the Wild Card. Midway through the month, Miguel belted a three-run homer against the Braves to give Willis his 13th victory of the year. The win was the club’s seventh in a row, pushing Florida to 18 games over .500.
Philly battled back in the ensuing weeks, but Florida would not be denied. The Marlins secured their first playoff berth since 1997 as the regular season drew to a close. Miguel finished the year at .268 with 36 extra-base hits. He was at his best with runners in scoring position. He posted a .375 average in RBI situations, which tied him for fourth in the league.
The Marlins entered the postseason a confident bunch. Though Willis was tiring, the rest of the staff was rounding into shape, while the offense had evolved into one of baseball’s most opportunistic. With Lowell returning to health, McKeon was forced to re-examine Miguel’s role, especially after he went hitless in eight at-bats with four strikeouts during the first two games of the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.
McKeon sat Miguel for Game 3 andreinserted Lowell in the lineup. Although the All-Star third baseman looked rusty in his return, Florida won to take a 2-1 series advantage. With a chance to send the Giants packing, McKeon shuffled the deck again, moving Miguel to right field. Eager to reward his skipper, he had a huge day. It began with a great catch on a flyball off the bat of Barry Bonds and ended with four hits and three RBIs in a thrilling 7-6 victory.
Up next for the Marlins were the surging Chicago Cubs and their pair of aces, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, in the National League Championship Series. Florida seized an early edge, with a split at Wrigley Field. When Miguel homered off Carlos Zambrano in Game 1, he became the second-youngest player to leave the yard in the postseason (behind Andruw Jones). He also launched a home run the following day against Prior.
When the series shifted to Florida, the Cubs appeared to put themselves in control with a pair of wins. But the Marlins responded with three straight victories. Game 6 provided the defining moment of the series, as Florida scored eight times in the eighth in front of a stunned crowd at Wrigley.
In the decider, Miguel clouted a three-run homer off Wood, setting the tone for Florida’s 9-6 win. Beckett, who pitched magnificently, was named NLCS MVP, overshadowing Miguel’s performance. For the series, the youngster batted .333 with three homers and six RBIs.
In the World Series, the Marlins continued to shock the baseball world. Matched against the mighty Yankees, they won the championship in sixgames. Beckett was brilliant again, blanking the Bronx Bombers in the finale. Miguel’s personal highlight was a home run off Roger Clemens in Game 4. As they had for every postseason contest, his family gathered together and watched the action in Maracay. By now, Miguel had moved his parents and sister to a big apartment in a nicer section of town.
Miguel walked away from his first postseason with 12 RBIs and a championship ring. Equally remarkable was the fact that at no time did he look the least bit awestruck or uncomfortable. His teammates kept waiting for the moment to catch up with him, but it never did, despite pressure that would have buckled seasoned veterans.
Even the demands of national celebrity didn't faze Miguel. The rookie was besieged the media and endorsement offers when he flew back home after the World Series. Named Venezuelan Sportsman of the Year, Miguel became his country’s hottest pitchman. His most notable commercial was a TV spot for Malton, a nonalcoholic drink.
Fans couldn’t get enough of him, either. Leaving his home turned into a major ordeal, as autograph seekers wouldn’t leave him alone.
This level of celebrity was an excellent primer for the 2004 campaign. After their second world title in seven years, the Marlins had the spotlight focused squarely on them. The team pulled off a couple of moves to prepare for the defense of their championship. Lee was shipped to the Cubs for Hee Seop Choi, Rodriguez skipped town via free agency, and Armando Benitez was signed as the new closer.
Nobody received more attention than Miguel. Critics wondered whether he was a flash in the pan, while supporters wanted to see him build on his amazing rookie campaign. Miguel showed up for spring training in the best shape of his life, the result of a vigorous offseason conditioning program that turned his remaining baby fat into muscle.
Miguel opened the '04 season batting over .300 and staying with the league leaders in homers, RBIs and slugging. As Florida struggled to re-gel after its myriad lineup changes, it was Miguel’s bat that boosted the franchise to the best April in its history. He continued to produce into the summer. In July, Miguel was named to the NL All-Star team. At the time, he was hitting .295 with 20 homers and 59 RBIs.
Heading into the second half, Miguel and the Marlins were confident they could turn it on as they had in '03. Despite their 45-43 record, they were still within a few games of Philadelphia for the NL East lead. When the club was still hovering around .500 two weeks later, management felt it had to make a move. Penny and Choi were dealt to Los Angeles for catcher Paul Lo Duca, former Marlin Juan Encarnacion, and set-up man Guillermo Mota.
Initially, the trade did nothing to stir Florida. The Marlins went 11-11 in the weeks that followed and lost crucial ground in the division. They reversed the slide with a nine-game winning streak starting in late August. By then, the Wild Card was their only real hope. But Florida could not sustain its momentum. The team finished third in the NL East and watched as the Houston Astros surged to the fourth and final playoff spot.
Of the problems that sunk the Marlins—banged up starting pitching and inconsistent years from Pierre and Castillo being the chief culprits—Miguel was not one of them. Offensively, he had a fantastic season. Florida's best run producer, he batted .294 with 33 homers, 112 RBIs, and 101 runs scored. Miguel's club-leading 148 strikeouts were somewhat alarming. But given his power numbers, the Marlins have no reason to change his free-swinging ways.
Unflappable as always, Miguel had adjusted well to being an everyday outfielder. McKeon bounced him between right and left, and Miguel had his lapses every now and then. Overall, however, he proved an adequate defender.
Miguel enjoyed his finest season yet in 2005. He wound up in the NL's Top Five in batting average (.323) and RBIs (116), tied his career high with 33 homers and set personal bests with 106 runs and 43 doubles. An All-Star for the second time, Miguel rose to the status of baseball's elite sluggers. But it was some late-season problems off the field that earned him the most headlines.
With the Marlins underachieving most the year, the club staggered down the stretch and finished far out of the playoffs. Players questioned whether McKeon had outlived his usefullness. Management agreed and canned the veteran skipper.
Clerly, Florida needed a new voice. Miguel made the mistake of opening his mouth at the wrong time. Late in the year, he blasted his teammates, coaches and anyone else who had tried to give him advice during the season. The outburst caught many by surprise, especially since it seemed unprovoked. Miguel had demonstrated a certain immaturity at times earlier in his career, but never had he been exposed as such a disruptive force.
Miguel let his bat do the talking in 2006. Sandwiched in the batting order between breakout rookies Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla, he boosted his average to .339, adding 26 homers and 114 RBIs. Miguel and Freddy Sanchez went down to the wire for the NL batting title, with Miguel falling five points short. Enemy pitchers didn’t give him much to hit during the season, as witnessed by his 86 walks. This translated into a career-best .430 on-base percentage. Despite a 78-win season by the Marlins, Miguel received a respectable number of MVP votes, finishing fifth in the balloting.
The 2007 season was Miguel’s last with the Marlins. He received a huge raise through arbitration prior to spring training and would earn even more going forward, making his retention by Florida unlikely. Miguel started with a bang, earning Player of the Week honors for the week starting April 1. He ended up having another fine year at the plate, batting .320 and establishing new career highs with 34 homers and 119 RBIs. One of those ribbies was number 500—only Mel Ott and Ted Williams had reached this plateau at a younger age.
After the season, the Marlins dealt Miguel and Willis to the Tigers for a package of prospects that included Cameron Maybin. Detroit was just one year off a surprising pennant, but the club had had regressed to 88 wins in ’07. With Miguel’s arrival in Motor City, the big question was where he would play. Manager Jim Leyland decided the best fit was first base, flip-flopping him with Carlos Guillen.
Miguel had a great year at the plate—leading the league with 37 homers and 331 total bases—but his contributions along could not make up for an otherwise sluggish offense and underachieving pitching staff. The Tigers finished fifth in the American League Central. Miguel led the club in hits, doubles and RBIs. He was rewarded with an eight-year deal worth over $150 million.
Miguel opened 2009 with a grand slam in the season’s first game. He added 33 more round-trippers before the year was up and topped the 100-RBI mark for the sixth year in a row. That feat landed him in elite company among active players. Only Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu and Albert Pujols had recorded an unbroken string of triple-digit seasons six years in a row.
The Tigers rebounded from their poor ’08 campaign to finish with 86 wins, but the improvement was hollow. Detroit fashioned a seven-game lead by the end of August, only to see it slip away in the final weeks. Magglio Orodnez suffered a frustrating power outage, Guillen was crippled by injuries, and key hitters such as Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco failed to deliver in the clutch. The Tigers fumbled away a three-game lead to the Twins with four games to play, and then lost a one-game playoff 6–5 in the 12th inning. It was, by any measure, a historic collapse.
Despite his lusty hitting, Miguel was part of the problem. For the second time in his career, he made unwelcome headlines away from the field. The pressure of the stretch run contributed to a drinking binge that ended with a domestic disturbance call from his wife to the police. The next day Miguel went 0–4 in a key loss to the Chicago White Sox. To his credit, he underwent treatment for his alcohol abuse right after the season ended.
The offseason saw a predictable number of comings and goings in Detroit. Granderson, Polanco, and starters Nate Robertson and Edwin Jackson went elsewhere, while newcomers included closer Jose Valverde and outfielders Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson. Miguel looked like a new man in the spring of 2010. Looking at ease, he was among the major-league leaders in homers, extra-base hits, batting average and RBIs.
With the Twins as AL Central rivals, the Tigers have their work cut out for them every season. Though much hinges on Detroit’s pitching, the team is unlikely to contend without a big contribution from Miguel. As he settles into the prime years of his career, he shoulders the dual responsibility of keeping his club on the winning track and, the fans at Comerica hope, chasing a little history in the process.
MIGUEL THE PLAYER
There is no denying that Miguel Cabrera is a special player. His combination of talent and instinct come around very rarely. Miguel can drive the ball to all fields, AND He is lethal against lefties and in RBI situations. As a rule, he concentrates on hitting the ball hard, not out of the park.
Few pitchers can beat Miguel with their fastball, and they no longer can jam him all game or he’ll make them pay. His stroke is quick and compact. When he first came up, he tended to chase low curves and soft stuff off the plate. But his pitch recognition has improved rapidly, and he has made the necessary adjustments to opposing pitchers.
For all of his natural ability, Miguel is constantly studying his craft. He turned himself into a better-than-average right fielder in very short period of time. He takes instruction well and is always ready to learn more. His favorite position is third base, but he hasn't uttered a peep about his move to the outfield.
While Miguel is young enough to be the son of some of his teammates, he is amazingly popular in the clubhouse. As he gets older and matures, Miguel will likely develop into a leader who’s respected as much for how he performs on the field as for what he does off it.