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Miggy Article

buccanes

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MIAMI ? Less than two hours before a game, Miguel Cabrera's cellphone keeps buzzing with a peculiar ring tone from his native Venezuela. "Amarillos, amarillos, amarillos, los platanos," barks the plantain vendor's voice as another message comes in.

The call could be from one of Cabrera's numerous cousins or a friend, but at that hour chances are it's from his mother, Gregoria, who contacts him several times a day. She might be offering hitting tips, and he had better listen.

The Florida Marlins third baseman, perhaps the premier young hitter in the majors, hails from a tight family with baseball as its common bond.

His mother played for 14 years for the Venezuelan national softball team, and three of her four brothers signed pro baseball contracts. His father, Miguel Sr., played amateur ball and managed his son in the junior ranks.

"Our main activity was baseball. We're very passionate about it," Cabrera's mother says by phone from the family home in Maracay. "Saturdays and Sundays were all about baseball."

That helps explain her son's precocious development in a game he started playing as a 3-year-old.

Last year, at 23, Cabrera became the third-youngest player since 1920 to drive in at least 100 runs in three consecutive seasons, following Hall of Famers Mel Ott (22) and Ted Williams (22), and he finished second in the National League in batting (.339).

Cabrera helped the Marlins win the World Series as a rookie in 2003, and he has been an All-Star every year since. The key statistics from his first four seasons are a close match to the numbers put up by home run king Hank Aaron in the same time frame.

"He steps into the batter's box, and all of a sudden a light goes off," Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs says. "He's like Albert Einstein in the batter's box."

Cabrera ranked among the top 10 in the NL in batting average (.319), home runs (11) and RBI (39) entering Sunday despite a nagging side muscle injury. His career accomplishments raise the question of how good he might be ? and how much money he might command.

In February, he was awarded $7.4 million, the largest salary ever for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

The St. Louis Cardinals wasted little time in rewarding another top young hitter, first baseman Albert Pujols, with a seven-year, $100 million contract that runs through 2010. But the Marlins have made no attempt to sign Cabrera to a multiyear deal. He will be eligible for free agency after 2009, when he will be 26, a year older than Alex Rodriguez was when he got his landmark 10-year, $252 million contract.

"When all is said and done, when they talk about right-handed hitters, I think he'll be up there with the A-Rods and the Pujolses and the Edgar Martinezes," says Fredi Gonzalez, Florida's first-year manager.

Pujols comparisons

Pujols' name often comes up in conversations about Cabrera, who at 24 is three years younger than the St. Louis slugger.

Pujols hit .334 with an average of 38 home runs and 127 RBI in his first three years. Cabrera's averages in his first three full seasons (he played 87 games in 2003) were only slightly less impressive: .318, 31 and 114.

They're the only NL players to win Silver Slugger awards at different positions in consecutive years. Both played the outfield and third base. There's a growing feeling Cabrera ? whose 11 errors were most among NL third basemen ? will also wind up at first.

"Comparisons to him make me very proud and make me work harder, because he's done some incredible things," Cabrera says of Pujols.

Cabrera has remained at a similar offensive level despite less protection in the lineup. Last year his home run total dipped from 33 to 26, but he also had fewer strikeouts and more walks than in 2005. The .339 average, .430 on-base percentage and .378 average with runners in scoring position were career bests.

"I'd like to see him surrounded by guys like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the lineup, to see how much damage he could really do," says Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny, a former teammate. "Because right now he's the one guy you don't want to beat you, so he's not going to get the pitches other guys are getting."

Should Cabrera continue on his current career track, he could be in line to become the game's next $200 million player. He simply smiles at the prospect.

"God willing," he says. "I hope that speculation is accurate. But you can't think about that. You just have to think about staying healthy."

That includes controlling his weight. The 6-4 Cabrera went into 2006 spring training at 260 pounds. He says he weighs 250 and would like to lose about 10 pounds, in part to quell any notion of being moved to first base.

Former star outfielder Andre Dawson, a special assistant for the Marlins, says Cabrera can be as good as he wants to be, provided he takes care of himself.

"He's got to be a little bit more focused and have a little bit more drive and intensity away from the playing field," Dawson says.

Hall of Famer Tony Perez, also a team special assistant, echoes Dawson's concern. They share an admiration for Cabrera's immense talent, especially his ability to hit to the opposite field.

"He's a natural hitter," Perez says. "He doesn't have to work at it that much. He's self-adjusting. He knows what he's doing wrong. All you have to do is mention something, and he picks it up right away."

Special skills

His family had an inkling when Cabrera was 14 he might become a special player when he started drawing the attention of scouts even though he couldn't sign as a pro for another two years.

His uncle, David Torres, a former Cardinals farmhand who had a baseball school, guided his development until dying of a heart attack when Cabrera was 15. Miguel Sr. took over that role, shutting down his auto body shop to focus on his son's development.

"He had to quit work for a year so he could dedicate all his efforts to Miguelito," says Cabrera's mom, who helped run her brother's baseball school. "That was tough, but we managed."

On July 2, 1999, the Marlins beat out several suitors and landed Cabrera with a $1.8 million bonus, the largest signed by a Venezuelan.

When Cabrera ended his first major league game with an extra-inning home run and again when the Marlins captured their second World Series title, in 2003, his neighborhood in Maracay burst into impromptu celebrations.

On a much smaller scale, Cabrera fosters that sense of camaraderie among teammates by hosting a barbecue after every Sunday home game. The gregarious Cabrera teammates see there is rarely evident to the media. His answers tend to be guarded and uninspired.

But pitcher Dontrelle Willis says Cabrera has embraced the role they share as team leaders.

"He's the same as me, just in Spanish," the jovial Willis says. "With our team having a great mix of Latin and American ballplayers, it's a perfect fit for us, and we take pride in that."

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl...era-focus_N.htm
 

Cabrerafan

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Miggy getting some national recognition. Me likey. On another note, Cabrera has leaped ahead of Chipper Jones for 2nd place in the All-Star voting. He'll never catch up to Wright, but it's still nice seeing him toward the top.
 

Goodfella

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Now if we could only get a new owner who would sign him to a huge contract after 2009.
 

pierremvp1

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That's a great read. Who's the author, so maybe one of our members who seems to hate all columnists can add this guy to his short good guy list.
 

fanofthefish

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Also included on the same page was the obligatory story of how the Marlins will probably have to trade Willis and Cabrera. Holy cow I didn't realize he was up to 260 and is down to 250lbs. Good to see Hawk say this is a concern.
 

Cabrerafan

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That's a great read. Who's the author, so maybe one of our members who seems to hate all columnists can add this guy to his short good guy list.

Jorge L. Ortiz
 

HelmsE

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Excellent article... Great to see some national exposure for the Marlins
 

louiecastillo1

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i want to go to the BBQ

I think Cabrera is gonna have to cut back on the BBQ's if he wants to lose a
few pounds.
 

Fishfan79

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Similar Batters through Age 23

Compare Stats

1. Hank Aaron (959) *
2. Orlando Cepeda (933) *
3. Frank Robinson (925) *
4. Joe Medwick (920) *
5. Mickey Mantle (914) *
6. Ken Griffey (907)
7. Andruw Jones (907)
8. Hal Trosky (905)
9. Vladimir Guerrero (900)
10. Al Kaline (900) *


Most Similar by Age

Click on C to compare their stats
Mouse over numbers to view names

21. Hank Aaron (956) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C
22. Hank Aaron (955) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C
23. Hank Aaron (959) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C


http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/cabremi01.shtml



I think that says more then any words can ever say.
 

Mauer7

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Similar Batters through Age 23

Compare Stats

1. Hank Aaron (959) *
2. Orlando Cepeda (933) *
3. Frank Robinson (925) *
4. Joe Medwick (920) *
5. Mickey Mantle (914) *
6. Ken Griffey (907)
7. Andruw Jones (907)
8. Hal Trosky (905)
9. Vladimir Guerrero (900)
10. Al Kaline (900) *


Most Similar by Age

Click on C to compare their stats
Mouse over numbers to view names

21. Hank Aaron (956) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C
22. Hank Aaron (955) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C
23. Hank Aaron (959) * 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 C


http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/cabremi01.shtml



I think that says more then any words can ever say.
It does. The only stat that jumped out (negatively) at me was how Cabrera had twice as many strikeouts as Aaron, even with 100 less AB's. But to be in Aaron's company is definetly saying something.
 

marlinz_fan

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Now if we could only get a new owner who would sign him to a huge contract after 2009.

Good luck with that. I think we end up doing a sign & trade with Miggy because Loria just is not willing to spend the money.
 

chickenman04

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the fact that Cabrera hasn't been signed to a muti year deal is criminal.
 
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the marlins are like an extra step between AAA and MLB... they build up the players to MLB allstar level and then trade them when theyre worth top dollar for a bunch of prospects to do it all over again...lol
 

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