Miguel Cabrera

Are the Tigers doing right by Miguel Cabrera?

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Yesterday Miguel Cabrera met the media and the Tigers explained that he’ll begin workouts with the Tigers today.  Some folks have a problem with that. One of them is Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, who thinks that the Tigers’ failure to force Cabrera into an alcohol treatment program is a major mistake:

The Pussy Cats are, essentially, doubling down on an alcoholic whose sobriety lasted barely a year. There is supportive, and there is coddling, and for somebody who said he has worked with dozens of players with substance-abuse issues, general manager Dave Dombrowski should know better than to skew toward the latter.

Like Passan, I’m inclined to believe that a guy who has had two major alcohol-fueled incidents in a little over a year has a major problem. Those little checklists that are designed to help you figure out if you have an alcohol problem aren’t perfect, but the fact is that Cabrera could check off a great many of the warning signs:

  • He drank scotch when he was pulled over, suggesting that he drinks to deal with problems;
  • By virtue of the incident before the White Sox series in 2009 and his late start to spring training this year, alcohol has interfered with his job;
  • The altercation with his wife showed that it has impacted his personal relationships;
  • The 2009 thing showed he had a damn high tolerance.

Still, I can’t say with any sort of certainty if the Tigers are coddling him like Passan charges.

We’re inclined to believe that someone with the means and the ability to take time off work like Cabrera does should be in some sort of in-patient facility — and my first impulse when Cabrera was arrested was to think that he should go to one — but not every alcoholic is the same. A great many people have successfully dealt with a severe alcohol problem by going to AA or getting counselling or exercising or finding religion or any number of other means.  Utilizing one of these other means — or many of them — doesn’t fit our expectation that celebrities must go into rehab, but it can be done and, in some cases, it may be a more effective way for any one person to deal with it like that rather than to take them out of their life for a 28 days.

I guess my point isn’t that Passan is wrong — he may very well be right — but I think that there are too many variables in play here for those of us outside the situation to be so certain about it.  A team that essentially says “get back on the field” like the Tigers are saying is owed some serious skepticism. But that team also has a huge long-term contract with the guy so even if we were to assume the most selfish of motives on the team’s part, those motives also counsel that they make damn sure that Cabrera doesn’t fall off the wagon again.

The Tigers may be screwing this up. They may also be doing exactly what Cabrera needs.  I’m not sure how anyone besides the Tigers, their doctors or Cabrera can know it. And hell, given how tough a nut to crack alcoholism is, I’m not even sure how they could know it either.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.