White Sox honor Miguel Cabrera, who reminds them how much he has crushed them
Cabrera bashed six hits over Friday and Saturday, the latter serving as his first four-hit game in almost two years.
At age 40, years removed from his prime and playing in Chicago for the last time in what surely will be a Hall of Fame career, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera spent the first two days of this weekend reminding everyone what a terror he has been to White Sox pitching.
“Playing against him during this time with Chicago, it has been incredible,” Yoan Moncada said via interpreter. “A player of his caliber, everybody respects him and tries to follow him.”
Cabrera bashed six hits on Friday and Saturday, including his first four-hit game in almost two years on Saturday.
“He’s still hitting, even with just his hands,” infielder Elvis Andrus said. “He’s from another world. Hitting is so hard and he makes it look, his whole career, so easy.”
Rather than another world, Cabrera and Andrus are both from Venezuela. Their penchant to laugh and joke with each other during the frequent times Cabrera was standing on second base was such that Andrus’ former manager Jeff Bannister told him to cut out the banter with a hitter who was relentlessly tormenting Rangers pitching. As Andrus recalls, Cabrera responded to his silent treatment by homering twice the next day.
As the Sox held a pregame ceremony Sunday in Cabrera’s honor, Andrus was flanked by his countrymen Lenyn Sosa and Edgar Navarro. The Sox made a donation to Cabrera’s personal charity, but Andrus cradled a bottle of Louis XIII cognac in his arms that he purchased himself.
“Every gift, we’re grateful [people], we like the ones we can actually enjoy,” Andrus said. “I would love people to give me an alcohol bottle.”
With the way Cabrera raised the bottle over his head triumphantly toward the Tigers’ dugout, it seemed like the gift hit its mark.
In landing Cabrera before the 2008 season, despite the White Sox’ own efforts to acquire him from the Marlins, the Tigers gained an elite centerpiece that made them annual contenders. From 2011-2014 — the last four years of Paul Konerko’s career — the Tigers won the American League Central four times in a row and reached the World Series in 2012, as Cabrera won a pair of MVP awards.
“No matter what game plan you had, no matter how well you executed pitches, he was still the toughest out in baseball,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said, having faced Cabrera repeatedly with the Royals. “He’s so smart. He kind of sets pitchers up. He’s always done that. Take a bad swing on a pitch inside to get them to throw it again, and then he’s ready for it.”
Cabrera’s most dominant playoff showing might have come when Andrus’ Rangers topped the Tigers in six games in the 2011 ALCS. In defeat, Cabrera hit .400/.556/1.050 with three home runs . . . and seven walks.
“Praying that the guys in front of him [don’t] get on base so you can just walk him,” Andrus said of the game plan.
The Sox won the AL Central in 2008, Cabrera’s first season in Detroit. But for the rest of his prime, he was an obstacle they could not overcome. Cabrera bashed .318/.402/.564 against the Sox from 2010-2016 with 26 homers in 115 games, often swatting away their half-cocked attempts to contend in the division.
Even as Cabrera faded at the end of his career, his acquisition by the Tigers represented the sort of trade for a proven star in his prime that the Sox never had the prospect depth to pull off. Now their bid to build an annual contender from the ground up is ending ignominiously, as the Tigers swept the Sox even with Cabrera resting on Sunday.
Both by comparison and on its own, the consistency Cabrera’s run offered Detroit feels worth commemorating with a glass of fine cognac. Even on a 90-degree day.
“I wish,” Andrus said. “That’s a good idea. The bottle is closed, but I’d be like, ‘Let’s get a toast, man.’ ”