Anyone who watches the Detroit Tigers knows that Miguel Cabrera is a generational talent.
Heck, anyone that watches professional baseball knows that.
So why does Jim Leyland persist in playing a clearly injured Cabrera while resting everyone else on the team?
The Detroit Tigers organization is only as good as its best player. Jim Leyland knows that. Dave Dombrowski knows that. And, I hope, everyone following the team knows this. With that being said, it only makes sense for the 2012 Triple Crown winner to have an extended, mandatory rest, better than the two days off, one day on nonsense that Leyland is peddling. This act of inconsistency should be viewed as a feeble attempt to cover a team’s (and manager’s) weaknesses, which is why a DL stint is absolutely necessary to gauge the prospects of a World Series contender for not just this season, but for several years after.
Without Cabrera in the lineup the other Tigers have to step up their games. No longer are they allowed to merely try to get on base and let the Big Man do the hard work. These guys have to drive in the men on base, which has been a huge problem with the Detroit offense this season. They have to get clutch hits, extra base hits, and manufacture runs with the luxury of Cabrera’s enormous aura.
Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez don’t seem fazed by the loss of Cabrera; if anything, Fielder is producing in the coveted 3-spot in the lineup, and Martinez can’t stop hitting since his reemergence after the All Star break. But everyone else? Well, they need some work. Dombrowski needs to take a look at these players and individually grade them on how they produce without Cabrera, and from there he can make judgement calls this offseason about who to resign, who to trade, and who to drop off at the bus station.
It’s the same basic principle with the pitchers, but with a slight twist: can these guys give the team a chance to win without a one-man offensive juggernaut scoring a plethora of runs? And, more interestingly, how does the defense affect the pitcher’s stats without Cabrera at the hot corner? This would enable the Tigers to realize the true value of his defense, and would lead the back towards first base eventually, and potentially acquire a man to field third base for the future. It’d also allow Dombrowski to see which pitchers thrive in a challenging scenario like this – the Tigers have a talented, deep rotation, chock-full of players that would garner multiple prospects in a trade.
Lastly, a stint like this puts the spotlight glaringly on manager Jim Leyland.
Leyland has been praised and maligned during his tenure in Motown, and each rightly so: he helped guide a historically-rich franchise back to respectability, but he has also shown that his Old School ways are often outdated and serve as a hindrance.
With Cabrera missing for a prolonged period of time, every choice Leyland makes will be scrutinized and vastly more important; there will be no Best Hitter in a Generation available to bail out a trailing team, no one to guide an offense and give a spark to a defense. If Leyland mismanages the bullpen and blows a lead, it’s on him to strategize a way back into the game. It’s on him to figure out where to place people in a lineup to maximize their abilities. It’s on him to guide his team to offensive and defensive strategies to gain and maintain leads.
Basically, with Cabby on the shelf, we’re going to have a better idea what to expect in the offseaon. We’ll know who needs to go, who needs more responsibility, who will be deserving of money, and who can be used to restock a depleted farm system. And, as for this season, wouldn’t you feel better having a fully-rested Cabrera ready to annihilate pitchers in the playoffs?