Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jim Leyland, Miguel Cabrera, and the Corvair

So Miguel Cabrera got popped in the face by a hot grounder, eh?  Tigers manager Jim Leyland said his face was swelled up, and Miggy looked like a boxer that needed a cut man, while getting beat in the fight.

A sensitive guy, that Leyland. Then, responding to questions from the press, Leyland went on to say that Cabrera, who has claimed the third base position in the merry-go-round since Prince Fielder hit town, would never be another Brooks Robinson.

Well, no kidding, Jimbo. It might have been a better analogy to compare Cabrera to Smokey Robinson. While they both rank(ed) high on the hit parade, they also seem(ed) to depend on Miracles. Smokey for his bandmates, and Miggy for being a decent defensive third baseman in the major leagues. And what, pray tell, might be the next jewel of wisdom emanating from the Leyland oracle? That Cabrera won't steal as many bases as Lou Brock? Have the lifetime batting average of Ty Cobb? His baseball cards ever worth a Rogers Hornsby?

While many fans and the media hang on Leyland's words like he just came down from the mountain with the tablets, your truly considers him to be vastly overrated. Like Sparky Anderson, he was in the right place at the right time to soak up a lot of glory, and throw out a lot of quotes, when they had immensely talented teams. What people tend to forget is both those guys stunk it up pretty bad when the talent level of their teams was anything less than stellar.

Someone recently said that Cabrera faced less risk playing third base than first base, and proposed the lame argument that first basemen are more likely to get spiked. That's ludicrous. On an extremely rare occasion, and only when the first baseman botches his own footwork, will he get spiked covering that bag. And how many batters have you seen sliding into first base slide with their spikes up, like they sometimes do at third?

Third base is called the "hot corner" for a reason. Things happen fast there, and Cabrera now has a few stitches in his face, and a fractured bone to show for it. Leyland said the same thing would have happened to any third baseman, including a Gold Glover, but I doubt it. He may be a slugger, but cat-quick with the glove, he's not. When's the last time you saw this happen to any other major league third baseman?

By comparison, first base is a piece of cake. Throw out practice grounders to the infielders while the pitcher is warming up to start an inning. Take the same infielders' throws on ground outs. Stand next to the bag, holding a runner on base when needed, and  play "cut-off" man when a throw comes in from an outfielder to the plate.

Meanwhile, while the first baseman is holding the runner, the third baseman has to come in close to guard against a bunt. If the batter takes a full swing, and the ball heads his way, then he's in danger.

Brandon Inge was an excellent third baseman, but he couldn't hit much. Evidently, now he's going to be the second baseman. He'll probably fare well there defensively, but it won't help his bat any. Hence, the merry-go-round.

As for Cabrera? If Jim Leyland can refer to the era of Brooks Robinson -- than so can I. Back then, there was this "consumer advocate" named Ralph Nader that wrote a book about the Chevy Corvair that was titled "Unsafe At Any Speed". It got around in a big way, and in the end, much to GM's chagrin, it eventually spelled the demise of the Corvair. Looking back, they were dopey looking cars, but kind of cool in their own way.

Miguel Cabrera was serviceable at first base, but since Prince Fielder displaced him there, I'm thinking there's a comparison to be drawn between Miggy and the ill-fated Corvair.

As in "Unsafe At Any Position".

Of course the Corvair never enjoyed the luxury of the "designated hitter". But I'm willing to guess one of those in mint condition is worth more than a whole set of Cabrera's baseball cards ever will be.

1 comment:

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