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Cabrera Drawing Raves


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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

 

 

By Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Insider

 

Florida infielder/outfielder Miguel Cabrera appears to have come out of nowhere at age 20, but he's been impressing scouts and beating up on pitchers for a while now.

 

Cabrera was 16 years old in 1999 when the Marlins gave him a signing bonus of $1.9 million, a record for a Venezuelan player. He was 18 when he first appeared in the All-Star Futures Game, and he remains the youngest participant in the five-year history of the event.

 

At 19, Cabrera had 43 doubles for Jupiter in the high Class-A Florida State League, which is notoriously tough on hitters. And this year, after he hit .402 in April for Double-A Carolina, the Marlins moved him from third base to left field to ease his path to the big leagues.

 

 

 

CabreraBaseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook ranked Cabrera as the No. 1 prospect in the Marlins' organization, three spots ahead of pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera's best position is third base, although he could wind up in the outfield or even first base if he continues to get bigger.

"He projects to hit for both average and power, with annual totals of 35-40 homers not out of the question down the road," Baseball America wrote. "He loves to play, doesn't get too emotional and constantly works to get better."

 

Although Cabrera is married, he barely shaves, and his youthful appearance makes baseball personnel people love him all the more. He has what scouts call "the good face."

 

During the first round of the playoffs, several scouts sat in a press room in the Wrigley Field basement watching the Florida-San Francisco series on television and raved about Cabrera each time he came to the plate. One called him a "thoroughbred."

 

 

Miguel Cabrera opened the season in Double-A; he'll finish it in the World Series.

The most amazing thing about Cabrera is his ability to adjust on the fly. He made his professional debut in right field in the NLCS against Chicago and played the position flawlessly. When Marlins manager Jack McKeon stuck Cabrera in the cleanup spot for Game 5 against the Cubs, Cabrera barely blinked. Then he went out and reached base three times.

 

With his precociousness and natural ability, Cabrera looks like a cross between Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones at a similar age.

 

"It's a tough adjustment to go from the low minors to facing dominating-type pitching in the big leagues at 20," one scout said. "I saw Griffey as a teenager in Seattle, and he was hitting balls into the upper deck in batting practice. But it's a little tougher when Dave Stewart is throwing you splitters and fastballs under your chin.

 

"Cabrera is a lot like Griffey and Pujols. He could level off and be a .290, 30-homer guy. But by the time he's 23, I think you'll see that '40' beside his name. He runs better than Pujols, and he's a better defensive player. People might say, 'You're crazy,' but if I didn't have a third baseman, and I could trade for Cabrera or Pujols, I'd take this kid. Really, I'd like to have them both."

 

 

Enemy of Red Sox Nation

Tim McCarver, the lead analyst for Fox's American League Championship Series broadcasts, probably is less unpopular in Boston than, say, accidental villain Steve Bartman is on the north side of Chicago. McCarver could even ride the MBTA without wearing a fake-nose-and-glasses combo -- the ultimate litmus test for anyone who is perceived as anti-Red Sox these days.

But for the sake of stress reduction, McCarver might want to hire someone to screen his voicemails for the next few days.

 

After McCarver initially criticized Pedro Martinez for throwing Don Zimmer to the ground in last weekend's Fenway Park brawl -- even though Zimmer ran at Martinez with his 72-year-old dukes up -- he was tagged by some Red Sox fans and Boston writers as a Yankee messenger boy.

 

In a post-fight postmortem, Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley doled out blame for participants in the incident and called McCarver "an oldtime baseball toady" and "baseball's dumbest man" for his observations.

 

McCarver shrugs off the backlash as an occupational hazard, attributable to passions that are heightened in October. He feels no need to set the record straight, but does so anyway.

 

"I've been fired by the Mets, and I was dismissed by the Yankees when the YES network was formed," McCarver told Baseball Insider. "So I ask you: How could I be pro-Yankee?"

 

McCarver was fired by the Mets in 1999 because management felt he was overly harsh in his criticisms of the team. Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who now works for ESPN, reportedly was not a fan.

 

McCarver, judging from his tone, is tired of the suggestion that he has a pro-New York slant. "I don't have to defend my objectivity, ever," he said.

 

But if you're a Red Sox loyalist and want to give him a piece of your mind, don't bother calling Fox in search of his e-mail address.

 

"I don't have a computer," McCarver said.

 

 

Bullpen-manship

Boston pitcher Todd Jones, one of baseball's most loquacious players, writes a regular column for the Sporting News, which refers to him as "the closer" even though he's strictly a fringe middle reliever these days.

 

 

JonesJones attacks issues with admirable candor in an era where most players duck controversial questions for fear of the fallout. Among other things, Jones has said he'd have difficulty sharing the clubhouse with a gay teammate. He also trashed the Boston media after the Colorado Rockies released him and the Red Sox signed him in early July.

"To be honest, the media here is brutal," Jones wrote. "They are the most negative spin doctors I've run into. They make big deals out of nothing. One reporter goes in for an interview and the next thing you know there are 35 around your locker asking the dumbest questions, such as, 'Did you mean to give up that homer?' or 'After this loss, is your team finished?' "

 

Does this guy have a death wish, or what?

 

In April, Jones was pitching in Colorado when he took issue with Boston's plan to approach this season with an assortment of pitchers sharing the closer's role.

 

"I can't even begin to imagine a bullpen by committee in Boston, of all places," Jones wrote. "Boston has got to be one of the toughest places mentally to pitch. There is the same amount of media coverage as in New York, but in Boston there is venom, because they haven't won the whole thing in 1,398,967 years and counting. Boston needs to either name one guy the closer and live and die with him, or go get somebody to be the guy. Bullpen by committee might work in Montreal or Tampa, but it ain't gonna fly in Beantown."

 

Scott Williamson

Relief Pitcher

Boston Red Sox

Profile

 

 

2003 SEASON STATISTICS

GM W L Sv K ERA

66 5 4 21 74 4.16

 

 

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein deserves credit for aggressively reshaping the team's bullpen during the season. He made a trade with Cincinnati to acquire Scott Williamson, who has emerged as Boston's closer, and he picked up Byung-Hyun Kim and Scott Sauerbeck, who have been non-factors in October. The contingent of Williamson, Mike Timlin and Alan Embree has been lights out for the Red Sox in the playoffs, while the Yankees' bullpen is a mess outside of Mariano Rivera.

 

"I saw the headlines, and our bullpen was becoming a punch line," Jones said Wednesday. "To watch it all fall into place is really cool to see.

 

"When I wrote that column I just felt that in a big market, there's so much scrutiny. On a team full of superstars, you can't have a bullpen by committee. You've got to have a hammer down there. Right now we've got three hammers."

 

Jerry Crasnick has covered baseball for the Cincinnati Post, the Denver Post and Bloomberg News Service. He has joined ESPN Insider as a regular contributor and can be reached via e-mail.

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