Sunday night and into Monday morning, it was impossible to log onto the Internet without being bombarded with the name “Miguel” popping up. The name was everywhere after the pop singer pulled a Hulk Hogan stinky leg drop on a poor woman in the crowd of some dopey televised music award show.
Roughly around the same time that viral moment happened, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was having a memorable night of his own, finishing 4-for-4 with three home runs, five RBI and four runs scored in a loss to the Texas Rangers on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Coming off a dual Triple Crown/MVP season in 2012, Cabrera hasn’t missed a beat this spring posting a .387/.457/.659 line along with 11 homers and a MLB-best 47 RBIs.
It speaks to the times we live in.
A singer most of America had no clue existed is (temporarily) a big deal, while the best hitter Major League Baseball has seen in years continues to pile up offensive stats that would make Hack Wilson, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig blush, but does so in relative obscurity. Think of it this way, if Cabrera’s career was taking place in any era of baseball pre-1994 strike, there’d be songs written about him, lame, cheesy songs but songs nonetheless. He’d likely be on the cover of cereal boxes and spoken about in the hushed tones revered for baseball royalty. Without question Cabrera would be considered among the top three or four most popular athletes in the country.
Instead, a year after he became the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (let’s save the Sabremetrics debate for another time) Cabrera seems to have less cultural relevance than that trash-talking, chucker from Ole Miss or countless other GIF-friendly athletes. Either way, you’d think there’d be a national company somewhere in America that would want Cabrera endorsing their product. Yet outside of promos for ESPN’s broadcasts, is Cabrera anywhere to be seen?
This probably speaks to two things, the first being baseball’s perceived diminished mainstream popularity in America. The second is Cabrera himself. He’s a fiercely private individual, whose native tongue is Spanish rather than English. This story from Spring Training in ESPN the Magazine details just how guarded Cabrera is, especially in light of his two separate alcohol-related off-field incidents, which sadly were what many casual baseball fans might have associated him with prior to last year’s MVP campaign. (Interesting nuggets: Cabrera has received an MVP vote in each of his 10 seasons since being called up by the Marlins in 2003, he’s also drive in 100 or more runs every year since 2004, his first full season.)
Regardless of how big his media presence may or may not be, Cabrera’s number’s are eye-popping. The AP’s Noah Trister reported after last night’s three-homer game in Texas, Cabrera’s last 162 game stats are 47 homers, 152 RBIs, 221 hits, 122 runs all while batting .351. It’s no wonder Cabrera’s age-comparable players on Baseball-Reference include Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mickey Mantle.
The Wall Street Journal even made the case Monday that Cabrera, with 1,869 career hits, might be the player best-poised to case Pete Rose’s all-time record of 4,256.
In the bright media spotlight or not, Cabrera is going to keep swinging, creeping his way up the record books. His accolades and accomplishments — such as last night’s line-drive homer to straightaway center in Arlington — likely won’t “trend” or wind up going viral or land millions of YouTube views.
Instead, baseball fans can take pleasure in watching a transcendent player do his thing three or four times every night on the way to a permanent place in Cooperstown.
[photo via Getty]