Cabrera quietly watches his team celebrate
To get an idea what this division title means for Miguel Cabrera, it’s best to think back to two years ago.
When the Tigers lost the tiebreaker that year, Cabrera sat in the clubhouse, his back hunched over, and cried openly. He felt like he had cost the team the division, a feeling more rooted in emotion than in fact. It took a bevy of teammates to console him.
As the Tigers celebrated Friday night, spraying champagne around the plastic-wrapped front half of the visiting clubhouse at Oakland Coliseum, Cabrera sat away from the crowd on the opposite side, watching it all as he puffed on a cigar and drank from a bottle of water. He had a look of pure contentment. He didn’t partake in the champagne, obviously, but he wasn’t partying regardless. He was soaking it all in.
“I have four years right now in Detroit,” he said. “Finally, we win the division. We’re here for this, man, to win. You have to give a lot of thanks to our owner, to our general manager. They put a lot of great guys here together. We finally made it, man.”
Just hours earlier, manager Jim Leyland said Cabrera was playing these days with more energy than he’s had all year. Cabrera didn’t argue. It’s the chance at the playoffs, he said, that brought it out of him. He hadn’t been to the postseason since he was a 20-year-old rookie with the 2003 Marlins. He badly wanted to get back, and he played like it.
When Cabrera caught Brandon Inge’s throw across the infield to retire Jose Willingham for the game’s final out Friday night, everyone was waiting to see how Jose Valverde would celebrate a title. Cabrera quietly made a sign and pointed to the sky to thank god.
“I feel great, man. I feel great. I’m happy,” Cabrera said. “We’re here for the fans, for the owner, for the general manager, for our manager. It feels awesome. It feels awesome we come through for our owner. We have a long way to go right now. We have to just keep playing hard. We have to keep winning and try to be ready for the playoffs.”
He was one of several already thinking to the playoffs. Justin Verlander was another. But he was one of many whose sustained intensity in September helped the Tigers get to this piont, clinching so soon.
Still, once they got here, he let everyone else act crazy. He just sat back and watched.
“We have a long way to go,” he said. “We know we have a good team. We battled all year. We know we can win the division, and we did it. We always play hard. It feels awesome, man.”