Escalating tensions between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers culminated in a home plate confrontation between Miguel Cabrera and Austin Romine. The two exchanged words before the slugger shoved the backup catcher, got into a fighting stance, and repeatedly swung wildly.
He failed to land a punch. Romine quickly ducked and executed a tackle. Cabrera, as he’s done so often during his disastrous 2017, went down swinging. A full-on brawl ensued.
The symbolism was a bit too on the nose.
The former Triple Crown winner, who has hit .316 or better in each of the last seven seasons, entered today’s game with a .256 average. He carries the lowest on-base (.340) and slugging percentage (.408) since his rookie year in 2003. This is a guy who has eclipsed the 1.000 OPS barrier twice and has a third .999 season.
His lack of power has been astounding. Through 108 games he’s mustered only 13 homers and 56 RBI. Constant and lingering problems have caused the fun-loving first baseman to wear a scowl. The political unrest in his native Venezuela has weighed heavily on his mind. His Tigers, despite carrying a bloated payroll, sit 17 games under .500 and have watched their window completely shut.
Worse, there is no hope on the horizon, no reliable bats waiting in the minors, and no foreseeable road back to respectability in the immediate future.
Cabrera and the Tigers can’t beat anyone on the field. They apparently can’t physically beat anyone either. Thursday’s ugliness was the latest black mark on a season full of darkness.
A lengthy and warranted suspension is coming. Cabrera will get a break — both from playing and mentally. He badly needs both. Speaking as a partisan here, it’s been painful to watch one of the best right-handed hitters to every play the game look woefully mortal. Worse, it’s been depressing to see his ever-present joy evaporate.
In some ways, it could be a blessing for him. If he’s out for 10 games, that’s 10 he doesn’t have to trudge out to his position and be miserable. It’s 40-50 at-bats where he can’t strike out on pitches he used to send into the gaps or over the fence.
Cabrera and the Tigers are both down for the count. Game 162 can’t come quickly enough. When it does, it will be an act of mercy from Father Time.