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Tigers should keep playing Miguel Cabrera until the bitter end

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The folks who argue that Cabrera is somehow doing the team a disservice by playing through pain have good intentions but they're off base.

Jason Miller

Brad Ausmus can make this very easy on himself. The path of least resistance is staring him smack in the face.

This has been a season of bandied about questions if you're a Tigers fan.

They have included, in no particular order: whether the bullpen is up to snuff; whether the team needs another left-handed bat; whether the closer should be replaced; whether the manager should be replaced; whether the GM should be replaced; whether Torii Hunter should be put out to pasture; whether Justin Verlander should be moved into the bullpen; and many others.

Now the question that was raised last week: Should Miguel Cabrera be removed from the lineup?

Prior to Miggy's assault on Indians pitching this week, there was much to do about the health of the Tigers slugger, whose ankle is apparently giving him trouble.

Some espoused sitting Cabrera down, to give his ankle some rest, even though no medical professional had seemed to indicate that rest would do any good. The disabled list was even mentioned, despite that being unnecessary with roster expansion in September.

The answer is simple, and not just because of Cabrera's hot start to this week.

Miggy plays. He plays until his ankle falls off.

Is Cabrera 100 percent? Of course he's not. Has he lost a significant amount of power? It would seem so. Is this malady bringing back bad memories of last season's physical battle? You bet.

But Ausmus need not make this a concern. He need only to write Cabrera's name in that no. 3 spot in the batting order, unless Miggy himself tells the skipper that a day off is needed.

Which, as you know, is about as likely as the Pistons winning the NBA Championship next June.

The "sit Miggy down" people say that Cabrera, in his wounded state, isn't helping the team. Going further, they say he is hurting the team.

Horsepucky!

This is very simple.

If you sit Cabrera, who do you replace him with?

I'll wait.

This roster, thanks in part to GM Dave Dombrowski, isn't exactly loaded with depth, even in September's bloated state.

So you tell Cabrera to sit in the dugout and turn cheerleader; then what?

Is there anyone on the roster right now that is even as good as a 25 percent Miguel Cabrera?

Victor Martinez has been playing first base this week, as Ausmus is turning Cabrera into a DH to at least give the big guy some degree of relief from the offending ankle.

But with Cabrera on the bench, who is the DH?

Not such a good idea anymore, is it?

What little has been reported about the ankle, from a medical perspective, has indicated that there is no structural damage to the ankle. Surgery is apparently not needed nor would it be particularly helpful.

Now, as far as the off-season treatment goes, that's another story.

But this is September, a division title absolutely must be won, and the Tigers could never be a team that is better without Miguel Cabrera than it is with him. Period.

Last I checked, Cabrera was still batting over .300 and is still going to drive in over 100 runs. His OPS is down, as is his home run total. That is unquestioned because those are the facts.

But the Tigers cannot replace him with anyone currently employed, no matter how less than full strength Cabrera is these days.

Cabrera may have shoved a sanitary hose into the mouths of some of the "bench Miggy" people with his blistering games in Cleveland on Monday and Tuesday. But who knows how long that silencing will last, if Cabrera runs into another cool patch?

The mere idea of benching Cabrera during a pennant race, unless he is physically unable to walk to the batter's box, is folly.

He is still respected by the opposition. He still draws intentional walks. He still hits .300.

Now, it might not be a sexy .300, i.e. in the .330-.340 range, but it's .300 nonetheless and you ask opposing hurlers if they think pitching to a wounded Miggy is a stroll down Easy Street.

Miguel Cabrera must play as many games as possible in September. And if the Tigers make the playoffs, he naturally plays all those games, too.

Let the Tigers medical personnel worry about making nice with the ankle during the off-season.

For now, use the mentality of former NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman Jack Youngblood, who played with a broken leg in Super Bowl XIV.

"Tape an aspirin to it and put me back into the game," Youngblood told L.A. Rams doctors when he first hurt the leg.

Miguel Cabrera gets some grief for wanting to play, no matter what. This puts Ausmus in an awkward spot, some say.

No it doesn't.

Ausmus just needs to keep playing Cabrera, unless told otherwise by Miggy himself.

Seems simple and non-awkward to me.