Richard Justice

Miggy a marvel with few comps

Miggy a marvel with few comps

Miguel Cabrera's 2,400th career hit prompted no parade. Larger and grander celebrations await.

Rather, 2,400 -- he got Nos. 2,400 and 2,401 Sunday at Yankee Stadium -- is an opportunity to appreciate Cabrera's career. He made his Major League debut at 20 in 2003, and 14 seasons later, he is on his way to crafting a Hall of Fame resume.

Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland sometimes would scold reporters asking him to compare Cabrera to other players.

"Don't even try," he would say, or something slightly more colorful.

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Leyland wanted us to appreciate that we are watching one of the best baseball players ever and that there aren't many even worthy of comparison.

Cabrera has 10 All-Star appearances, a Triple Crown, two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and four batting titles. His .959 career OPS is the 17th highest of all-time.

Wrap you mind around that figure. It's higher than current stars like Mike Trout, Joey Votto and Alex Rodriguez. It's higher than a bunch of Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson.

Just as impressive is that Cabrera has finished in the top five in MVP Award balloting five other times. In this generation of baseball, there's no conversation about the best players without including Cabrera.

Those who know Cabrera best say he prides himself on sweating the small stuff. When Detroit moved him to third base after the signing of Prince Fielder in 2012, Cabrera poured himself into, not just being competent at third, but in playing the position well.

At 33, Cabrera is the fifth-youngest player to reach the 2,400-hit mark. The other four? Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Aaron and Robin Yount.

As company goes, that's about as impressive as it gets. One example of Cabrera's greatness was on display last week when Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna buzzed him with a 97-mph fastball.

Cabrera hit the ground hard, got up slowly and took a couple of seconds to collect himself. He didn't so much as glance at Osuna. His focus on the task at hand -- helping the Tigers rally from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth -- never wavered.

Cabrera channeled his competitive fire in another direction, and two pitches later, he slapped another 97-mph fastball off the wall in right-center for a game-tying double.

There have been times in recent seasons when it was easy to wonder if Cabrera could still perform at an elite level as he was sidelined by surgeries or attempted to play through injuries.

Now Cabrera is relatively healthy, and so are the Tigers. He has played in all 62 games and is hitting .297 with 13 doubles, 12 home runs and an .880 OPS.

The Tigers are 17-9 since May 15, and after missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, they are three games behind Cleveland in the AL Central as they begin a series at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox on Monday.

Rookie Michael Fulmer has lined up with Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann to give Detroit's rotation a nice front three. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is having an All-Star season in the leadoff spot, and as long as Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez are healthy, the lineup will be competitive.

In short, it could be a fun baseball summer -- and maybe a fall -- in Detroit. As for Cabrera, he appears poised to keep climbing the all-time leaderboards in a bunch of areas: slugging percentage (16th all-time at .560), RBIs (58th with 1,481), doubles (57th with 505), home runs (50th with 420) and a string of other numbers.

Cabrera has shown this season that he can still be one of the game's elite players, and there's something special about being able to watch a player that is going to be remembered as one of the best ever. For this, we are the lucky ones.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.