After 21 MLB seasons and countless accolades, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera has hung up his cleats. Cabrera made it known earlier this year that his age-40 season would be his last, and he was deservedly celebrated everywhere that the Detroit Tigers went in 2023. He capped off his career this weekend at Comerica Park.
Most baseball fans will remember Miggy as a Tiger. That’s where he won his MVP awards, became his generation’s only Triple Crown winner and reached prestigious career milestones (500 home runs, 3,000 hits, etc.).
But José Miguel Cabrera got his start in professional baseball when he signed with the Marlins in 1999(!) out of Maracay, Venezuela. He rose through the minor league ranks rapidly and became an everyday starter in the big leagues at age 20. With Cabrera’s help, the 2003 Marlins pulled off a stunning midseason turnaround and won the World Series title.
There are three moments from Cabrera’s five-year Marlins tenure that have aged particularly gracefully:
- Walk-off home run in MLB debut (6/20/03)
2. World Series home run off of Roger Clemens (10/22/03)
3. Game-winning RBI single during intentional walk attempt (6/22/06)
Cabrera’s .313 batting average as a Marlin is the highest in franchise history for a player with at least 1,000 career at-bats. Although Luis Arraez will likely unseat him for that distinction next season, Cabrera ranks among the top 10 all-time Marlins in practically every offensive counting and rate stat. And he did all of that before even entering his prime.
Cabrera played in Miami for the last time during the July 28-30 series between the Tigers and Marlins. He started all three games as Detroit’s designated hitter. The Marlins marketed it as “Miguel Cabrera Weekend” and scheduled their annual Venezuelan heritage celebration to coincide with his visit. Despite the Tigers’ mediocrity, Miggy fans flooded the stadium—the announced attendance for that series was 22,354 per game, approximately 56% higher than the Marlins’ average turnout.
A topic I plan to explore further this offseason: Should the Marlins honor Cabrera by retiring his uniform number? (Obviously, the Tigers will.) After wearing No. 20 as a rookie, he donned No. 24 for the rest of his Marlins tenure (2004-2007). That number is currently assigned to Avisaíl García. As not only a former Miggy teammate but also a fellow Venezuelan, García would presumably cooperate with zero resistance (and frankly, it’s possible that García doesn’t survive this offseason on the Marlins roster anyway).
Following Cabrera’s departure from the diamond, Giancarlo Stanton and Brad Hand are the only former Florida Marlins who remain active major leaguers.
Cabrera will begin his post-playing career as a special assistant to Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris.
Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish On First