With the first full day of workouts at Spring Training sites across Arizona and Florida, one face is missing from the Detroit Tigers camp in Lakeland, Florida. Franchise player Miguel Cabrera has yet to report to camp and according to the Associated Press article Cabrera misses Tigers' first full-squad practice Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is quoted as saying: "Miguel is not going to be here today nor will be here for the next couple of days,". The reason for his delay? It has to do with Cabrera's drinking problem.
Let me say up front, I am not trying to be judgmental with this post. Far from it. I can say that working in a bar I somewhat feel responsible for how bad people get when they drink. I work in an industry that profits from those who drink, regardless if they drink responsibly or not. I am not here standing on a soapbox when I wonder what's going to happen with Miguel Cabrera. He has had a history with his drinking that some would say has hampered his ability to perform on the field.
During the end of the 2009 season, the Tigers and the Minnesota Twins ended the season tied for first and needed a tie-breaker to decided who would win the American League Central. 12 hours before the game was to start, a 911 call went out from the Cabrera household by his wife which led to Cabrera being detained at a local police station until Tigers GM Dombrowski picked Cabrera up. There was apparently an argument and an altercation due to Cabrera's coming home late after a night of drinking. This led to an apology to his teammates for being drunk on a weekend while the Tigers were trying to hang on to the lead in the AL Central and a promise to get the necessary help in combating his problem.
After spending three months in an outpatient treatment program for alcoholism during the 2009/2010 offseason, Cabrera was quoted in January 2010 as stating: "My drinking was a problem, and I feel good without it. I feel like a new man,". Cabrera claimed that since the day of his arrest on October 3, 2009, he was alcohol free. By March of 2010, Cabrera's tone in reference to his situation seemed to change. In reference to the media's portrayal of his situation, he was quoted as saying: "You guys write in the paper 'alcoholic,' that's not right, I don't know how to explain, but it's not an alcohol problem.". Cabrera arguably had his best season in 2010 coming second to the Rangers Josh Hamilton in the AL MVP vote (Cabrera finished 4th in the 2009 AL MVP vote). Here we are in February of 2011 and things seem to have gone full circle for Cabrera.
Cabrera was arrested last week on charges of suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and resisting arrest when he was found in his car by a Deputy in Fort Pierce, Florida. Though, he was just sitting in his car with the engine running on the side of the road, Cabrera apparently took a drink from a Scotch bottle in front of the Deputy. The police described Cabrera as being uncooperative, yelling out "Do you know who I am, you don't know anything about my problems" and cursing at the police while resisting which led to his resisting arrest charge. The full police report is located at the following SBNation site: Click Here. Getting back to my original point in the title of this post: What's going to happen to Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera is in the 4th year of his 8-year $152 million dollar contract with the Tigers. It seems unlikely that the team will cut ties with their franchise player. While Tigers Manager Jim Leyland seems to have taken the stance that Cabrera's problems with alcohol is not a problem, it is. We're dealing with adults here and let's be honest, adults let loose at times. We all have stress in our lives regardless if we make $22 million a year or $22 thousand a year. The issue is not how we release our stress but what steps we take to do so responsibly. I'm sure the teams have resources available to players like taxi service to and from Spring training sites and team hotels to ensure the players get to and from places safely. The players just need to utilize them to avoid situations like Cabrera's. When you get to Cabrera's level of having gone through an intervention, then things change.
By taking Leyland's tact of nothing being wrong is like placing a finger in a leaking dam with 20 other cracks leaking water and expecting the leaks to go away. I believe that Tigers GM Dombrowski says it best when talking about Cabrera:
We have an issue here that needs to be addressed and helped -- and we're going to help him. We fully support him in trying to get help. But it also can be tough help sometimes.
Its like I tell people in the bar, you can promise to help people all you want but in the end, if the person in question doesn't help themselves the help is wasted. Does Miguel Cabrera really want help? Only he can answer that question. I believe there are many things in this world that we can't control. We can control our drinking. I don't think there is someone holding Miguel Cabrera down forcing liquor down his throat. For whatever his reasons, he's doing it to himself and only he can stop it before he puts his career in the garbage. All he needs to do is look at the example of Josh Hamilton to see what can happen when you allow yourself to throw your career away. There is hope for Cabrera.
I believe that fellow Venezuelan and teammate Carlos Guillen (in statements made to MLB.com) puts Cabrera's situation in the proper perspective:
Yeah, I'm worried about him, because he's got a lot of talent. He's got the potential to be a Hall of Famer one day. Sometimes you have people around you that are not good for you. You think they're your friends, but they're not really friends.
Hopefully Miguel Cabrera can come to realize that for himself before its too late for the sake of his career.
For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Tom Gage's article Tigers GM: 'We have an issue,' no date set for Cabrera's return from The Detroit News website dated February 17, 2011
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Cabrera misses Tigers' first full-squad practice from the Florida Times Union website dated February 19, 2011
- Click Here to access the ESPN News Service article Miguel Cabrera faces DUI charge from ESPN.com dated February 19, 2011
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Miguel Cabrera puts issues in past from ESPN.com dated March 2, 2010
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Tigers' Cabrera treated, says life is good from ESPN.com dated January 22, 2010
- Click Here to access the ESPN News Service's article Cabrera apologizes to teammates from ESPN.com dated October 6, 2009