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Miggy in Miami: A homecoming fit for a king

You can take Miguel out of Miami, but you can’t take the Miami out of Miguel.

Born in Venezuela. Raised in Miami. Crowned in Detroit.

I’m borrowing from the fine folks that run the Detroit Tigers Twitter (X?) account, but those nine words best describe the recent weekend series played in South Florida. The Miguel Cabrera retirement tour has been mildly entertaining, and something of a relief if we’re for Tigers fans if we’re honest, but Miami still loves Miguel too and made it known in his final series back in town.

Being in loanDepot Park for all three games last weekend provided three wildly different experiences for this lifelong Tigers fan born and raised roughly an hour away from Miami. Marketed as Miguel Cabrera weekend and smartly paired with Venezuelan heritage night, the Marlins hosted their largest regular-season audience since 2017 with nearly 33,000 in attendance.

Think about that: the final return of a player traded 16 years ago drew a historic attendance. That’s what Miguel Cabrera means to Miami... to Venezuela... to baseball. And the beauty of it all is that he doesn’t exactly look like a guy ready to hang up his cleats.

Cabrera put up a .301/.387/.408 slash line over June and July, playing 33 of Detroit’s 55 games. His 127 wRC+ during that span means he’s still capable of being an above-average hitter and would rank among the top 50 in all of baseball. Sure, the power is gone, but the pure hitting ability and intelligence at the plate are still intact all these years later. It’s still remarkable to watch and a long-lasting testament to the skill level of the true greats.

Miggy doesn’t get enough at-bats to qualify for any leaderboards, so it’s tough to compare him to everyday players, but it’s safe to say that the farewell tour has gone significantly better than most Tigers fans had hoped for.

Even though he went 0 for 4 on Friday, Cabrera doubled in the other two games of the series. The first double came on Saturday just after the standing ovation in the video above. The roar of 33,000 fans swelled and exploded like the top of a mushroom cloud erupting.

Javy Baez stood on third and Miggy strolled into second as the ball bounced over the right field wall. Anyone who had returned to their seat for the first pitch of the at-bat was back to their feet, and most raised Venezuelan flags to celebrate their national hero.

Cabrera singled later on in the ninth and received yet another standing ovation as he was replaced by a pinch runner. Enough fans had trickled out to beat the traffic by this time, but the noise level was still deafening in Little Havana.

The 5-0 Marlins loss hardly fazed the fans in attendance. It was Miguel Cabrera Day and everyone wanted to see him succeed. He called it “one of the most special days of (his) career,” but the fun wasn’t over yet.

It’s rare to see Cabrera in the starting lineup for three games in a row, but denying him one final game in Miami seemed cruel after all the fun over the first two days. I forgot to mention that Cabrera was honored on both Friday and Saturday. The Marlins gave him cigars, his favorite rum and some sort of donation to his foundation (it was hard to hear over the fans and echoey speakers). The cities of Miami and Doral also declared July 29 as Miguel Cabrera Day.

On Sunday, Cabrera doubled again, this time down the left-field line. He raised a fist in celebration after coasting into second, knowing it might be his final time in the spotlight where it all began. The crowd knew it too. Another ovation was in order.

Cabrera made his final plate appearance of the series in the seventh inning. He walked and went first to third on a Kerry Carpenter single. A. J. Hinch pinch-ran Akil Baddoo at that point, giving Miggy one last chance to soak it in. He threw his hands up with a smile, as if to say “How can you take me out now?” and looked around one more time as he came off the field.

Credit: David Rosenberg

Miguel Cabrera’s retirement from baseball will be a sad day for the sport. He’s the greatest Venezuelan player ever, the greatest Marlin ever, the best right-handed hitter of his generation (along with Albert Pujols) and, in my book, the best player to ever wear the Olde English D.

Cabrera is the face of a generation. A triple-crown winner. A two-time MVP that finished inside the top 10 in voting nine times. A member of the 3,000 hit club and 500 home run club — becoming the fifth person to join both.

I’ll leave you with this.

There are less than 50 games left in Cabrera’s career. Tigers fans can spend it groaning about the $150 million he’s made over the past five years while producing sub-par results, or they can celebrate him at home the same way South Florida and the Venezuelan community did this weekend.

I can assure you the latter option will be more fun, and the Big Fella (shoutout to Rod Allen) deserves it. Even if Max Clark, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson all pan out, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever approach the same legendary status that Cabrera has in the game.

These are the final pages of one of the greatest chapters in the story of baseball. They deserve to be treated with the same respect fans showed over the weekend in South Florida.