Cabrera: Third base pushed me to work hard
Third base was supposed to be Miguel Cabrera’s downfall in the AL MVP debate. It never got that close.
Then, when Cabrera talked about the award, he turned his position change into a strength.
“I think the most important thing I did this year was defensive,” he said.
He went beyond that. After hearing him talk about it, you wonder if he has this kind of season if he doesn’t make the move.
“I think Leyland made a good decision to move me to third base,” Cabrera said, “because it really pushed me to work hard.”
It takes a little explanation, and it goes back to the stretch run last season, before third base was even a serious consideration. But Jim Leyland agreed.
It was Leyland who challenged Cabrera going into September 2011 to bear down consistently and hit his way to a batting crown. He was in a close race, but Leyland still saw him giving away at-bats, something Leyland has discussed with him since he came over from the Marlins.
“I told him, ‘I want to see you win this batting title,’” Leyland recalled Thursday night after the MVP announcement. “And he went on a concentration mission that’s unbelievable.”
When Cabrera’s comments about moving to third came up, Leyland thought of that run.
“I definitely think that’s true,” Leyland said, “and I’ll tell you why: I think going to third base helped his total concentration in all phases. I think it helped him at the plate. He was always [involved] in the game. I think he really concentrated on third base and he did a great job. He did a great job.
“They’re all making fun of us last winter. Oh, he can’t play third base.”
That concentration, Leyland said, was at its highest down the stretch this season. For some voters who have made their reasoning public, that September stretch was the time when Cabrera won the award. I can’t argue, because when I wrote about Cabrera’s MVP case in early August, I didn’t suggest he was the front-runner. I said he still had time to become that.
“He’s been giving away fewer at-bats away each year,” Leyland said. “And when he doesn’t give at-bats away, you see how good he can be.”