Learn more about Miguel Cabrera
- For the Mexican painter, see Miguel Cabrera (painter)
|Florida Marlins — No. 24|
|Bats: Right||Throws: Right|
|Major League Baseball debut|
|June 20, 2003 for the Florida Marlins|
José Miguel Torres Cabrera (born April 18, 1983 in Maracay, Aragua State, Venezuela) has been a Major League Baseball player for the Florida Marlins since the 2003 season. Cabrera is 6'2" and weighs 210 pounds. He bats and throws right handed. He is the regular third baseman for the 2006 Florida Marlins.
 Growing up
Jose Miguel Torres Cabrera was born on April 18, 1983 in Maracay, Venezuela. Baseball was in his blood from the time he entered the world. His parents, Miguel and Gregoria, met on a baseball diamond. Both had been excellent players in their day. Miguel’s father was a highly regarded amateur player whose dreams of a pro career ultimately went unfulfilled. Miguel’s mother was the shortstop on the Venezuelan national softball team for 14 years, and continues to tutor kids in Maracay. Her brother, David Torres, signed with the Cardinals and made it to Class-AA before his career stalled.
Miguel grew up as a baseball brat. When he wasn’t toddling around the dugout at Gregoria’s games or playing with his father and uncle, all he had to do to watch a game was hop the fence that separated his backyard from the rightfield line at Maracay Stadium, which was later named for Uncle David, who died of a heart attack in 1997. In the year before his death, Torres worked with Miguel almost every day, imparting to him his baseball wisdom and warning him of the pitfalls a young Venezuelan could expect to encounter in North American baseball.
For the Cabreras, life revolved around family—and baseball. Miguel lived with his mom and dad and younger sister Ruth in the La Padrera neighborhood, a poor area of his hometown. They were very close and got along with each other very well—provided the kids obeyed their parents and worked hard in school. Miguel’s father, now an auto mechanic, remembered the heartbreak of his fizzled baseball career. He didn’t want the same thing for his son, so he asked Miguel to focus on becoming an engineer. But the youngster couldn’t stop thinking about baseball. He often fantasized about following in his footsteps of Dave Concepcion. The shortstop for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the 1970s, he was also a native of Maracay.
Basketball and volleyball also occupied Miguel’s time, but his thoughts were riveted to baseball throughout his childhood. By the age of six he was good enough to play in national competitions, and even confided in his grandmother, Norbeta, that he wanted to play in the big leagues. Miguel and Ruth spent a good part of their childhood practicing with a stick as a bat and a wad of paper as a baseball. By the time Miguel reached his teenage years, Concepcion had become his primary mentor. Unlike the stick-thin rookie who debuted for the Reds in 1970, Miguel was already stocky and powerful. Though he possessed only average speed, he had a strong arm and a potent bat.
By the age 14, Miguel was confident enough in his abilities to tell his father that he had decided to pursue a pro career. The elder Cabrera said he would support his son, provided his schoolwork didn’t slip and he got his high-school diploma.
The baseball bird dogs had already started sniffing around after Miguel at this point. The Minnesota Twins sent their scouting director, Mike Radcliff, to Venezuela to evaluate him. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers were also hot on Miguel’s trail. His favorite team was the Florida Marlins. He watched them win the 1997 World Series with key contributions from fellow Latinos Livan Hernandez and Edgar Renteria.
Florida scout Louie Eljaua held a workout for Miguel, who amazed him with his maturity and power. Eljaua called the Marlins brass, and implored them to get out their checkbook. The bidding war for Miguel escalated when the Dodgers and Yankees both intimated they’d go as high as $2 million.
The Marlins, however, had the inside track. Their offer—$1.8 million—was more than generous enough, but Miguel’s parents were most impressed by the team’s commitment to developing young Hispanic players. Miguel had to wait until after his 16th birthday to sign, and in the meantime accelerated his education. When he signed with Florida in July of 1999, rumor has it that George Steinbrenner was so furious that he fired three of his Venezuela scouts .
That summer, still a year away from joining the Marlins, Miguel picked up invaluable experience playing for the equivalent of a farm team in Venezuela’s Winter League.
 On The Rise
Miguel was assigned to Florida’s team in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to start the 2000 campaign. At 6-2 and 185 pounds, he was bigger than most prospects from Latin American countries. His skills were also advanced. Miguel had a wonderful feel for the strike zone, could spray the ball to all fields and responded well in the clutch. Defensively, he was somewhat limited at shortstop, but he had good hands and a rifle for an arm.
In 57 games in the GCL, Miguel hit .260, and showed gap power with 10 doubles, two triples and two home runs. He also scored 38 runs and drove in 22. The Marlins rewarded Miguel by promoting him to Utica of the Class A New York Penn League. There, in eight games, he batted .250 with six RBIs.
Miguel spent another off-season in winter ball back home in Venezuela. With a month to go in the campaign, he was called up to the Aragua Tigers, who installed him as their starting shortstop in place of Giomar Guevara. The teenager never blinked in the face of the pressure. In 27 games against what amounted to Triple A competition, he posted a respectable .253 average.
Heading into 2001, Miguel was ready for another important year in his development. The Marlins bumped him up to the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League. Teamed with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the first overall pick in the 2000 draft, Miguel began the season at shortstop. Cougar manager Russ Mormon was charged with ushering both blue-chip prospects along on their way to the majors.
For Miguel, the ’01 campaign got off to a rocky start. Through the season’s first month, he was slumping at the plate, and lost in the field. By early May, he had already committed 19 errors. Some in the organization wondered whether he wouldn’t be better served by a move to third base.
But Miguel fought through his struggles. Hitting coach Matt Winters helped by changing the youngster’s stance slightly, convincing him to be taller and more upright in the batter’s box. Over the next two months, Miguel raised his batting average to .279. He was most dangerous with runners on base. In one 37-game stretch, he drove home 35 runs, and hit .467 with the bases loaded. Miguel also solved his problems in the field, cutting down significantly on his miscues.
In July, he and Gonzalez were both selected for the Futures Game during the All-Star weekend in Seattle. The Marlins, meanwhile, were thrilled that the pair had become close friends. Miguel was still learning the English language, so the California-born Gonzalez was the perfect running mate for him.
For perhaps the first time in his young career, Miguel showed some nerves. Stepping onto Safeco Field was an eye-opening experience for him. So was seeing Alex Rodríguez in person. As the DH for the World team, he went 0-for-2 with a walk. His hitless day was also partly the result of his cross-country journey to the Great Northwest. Miguel had suffered from a stiff back earlier in the year, and switching planes a couple of times didn’t exactly loosen it up.
The rest of 2001 proceeded a lot smoother for Miguel. He ended the year at .268 with 30 extra-base hits and 66 RBIs. He also distinguished himself in the field with the strongest arm in the Midwest League.
After another off-season of winter ball, Miguel joined the Jupiter Hammerheads of the higher Class A Florida State League. There he transitioned to a new position, third base. The Marlins actually instituted the change in spring training, at the request of assistant coach Ozzie Guillen. The former All-Star shortstop had followed Miguel’s progress closely through the minors, and felt he was better suited for the hot corner. Interested in finding the fastest path to the majors, Miguel didn’t fight the move at all.
While the defensive adjustment to third took some time, Miguel didn’t skip a beat at the plate. By July, his average stood at .277, and he led the Hammerheads with 45 RBIs. For the second year in a row, Miguel got the nod for the Futures Game. More relaxed this time around, he picked up two singles for the World team.
By this time, Miguel was also adjusting to married life. On June 17, he tied the knot with Rosangel, his high school sweetheart. The couple exchanged vows in a civil ceremony.
Miguel stayed hot over the final months for Jupiter. In 124 games, he batted .274, and added 43 doubles and 75 RBIs. Though his power had yet to show itself—Miguel recorded only nine HRs in 489 ABs—the Marlins weren’t concerned. Miguel’s knowledge of the strike zone was excellent, and it was only a matter of time before he began driving the ball.
The Marlins and Miguel figured he would spend at least one more season in the minors developing his power stroke. He started the 2003 campaign with the Carolina Mudcats of the Double-A Carolina League. Among his teammates was a high-kicking, crooked-hat-wearing lefty named Dontrelle Willis. The two made life for Carolina manager Tracy Woodson very easy. Both had big-league talent, and were willing to work hard on their weaknesses. Not that either showed many.
Midway through June, Miguel was tearing up the CL. In April, he hit .402, and by June his average stood at .365, with 10 homers and 59 RBIs.
 Making his Mark
Things weren’t going nearly as well for the Marlins. For the first time since their 1997 championship, the team had entered the season with an eye toward the playoffs. The lineup was solid with centerfielder Juan Pierre and second baseman Luis Castillo unnerving pitchers with their speed at the top of the lineup, and catcher Pudge Rodríguez, third baseman Mike Lowell and first baseman Derek Lee forming the heart of the order. At shortstop, Alex Gonzalez provided flashy defense and surprising power. The pitching staff was stacked with young arms. Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Mark Redman and Carl Pavano constituted one of the most promising rotations in the league, while Braden Looper was at times unhittable out of the pen.
But manager Jeff Torborg couldn’t get the pieces to fit. Injuries played a role, but the Marlins hadn’t clicked when healthy, either. By early May, Florida was languishing six games under .500, and sinking in the standings beneath the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. The front office tried everything to jump-start the club. In May, with Willis pitching lights-out in Carolina, the Marlins called up the lefty. Two days later, Torborg was fired, and replaced by 72-year-old Jack McKeon.
McKeon’s unconventional managing style stirred up the Marlins, who began turning things around. But the club was still losing as often as it won. Looking for another spark, Florida made another bold move. On June 20, the team promoted Miguel to the big leagues. Lowell was having a sensational year at third, so the Marlins plugged the 20-year-old into leftfield.
Woodson had been preparing Miguel for this shift in Carolina, but he was still learning the ropes. The Marlins asked Andre Dawson to take a break from his front office job and tutor the youngster. Miguel took well to the lessons, picking up valuable insight about breaking on flyballs, throwing to the correct base and aligning himself properly against different hitters.
Miguel’s debut came in an interleague game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Hitless in his first four at-bats, including a groundout in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, he launched a walk-off home run to dead center in the 11th off Al Levine. As Miguel and his teammates celebrated, the stats freaks hit the record books. Miguel was the sixth-youngest player to homer in his first game, behind Scott Stratton (1888), Whitey Lockman (1945), Denny McLain (1963), Ted Tappe (1950) and Clint Hurdle (1977). He was also the third Venezuelan player to go deep in his debut, joining Alex Cabrera and his teammate, Alex Gonzalez.
Miguel’s father didn’t learn any of this until the following day. He had been tracking the game over the Internet, but fell asleep after the ninth. When he read the headlines the next morning, he bought every newspaper at his local bodega.
Miguel hit safely in four of his next five games, then went 0-for-15 to end the month. The rookie made the necessary adjustments and opened July with a four-hit, four-RBI effort against the Braves, the top team in the N.L. East, and remained hot all month long, batting .318 with five homers, eight doubles and 21 runs knocked in. He was named the league’s Rookie of the Month, following the lead of Willis, who had earned the honor in June.
With Miguel helping to re-energize the Marlins, the team started a run for the Wild Card. Florida suffered a setback when Lowell went down with a broken bone in his left hand, but GM Larry Beinfest swung into action with a trade for Jeff Conine. A member of the 1997 World Series champs, Comine assumed the leftfield job and Miguel came in to play third. Beinfest also acquired Ugueth Urbina to solidify the bullpen.
Another position change didn't faze Miguel. Growing more comfortable in his new surroundings, he settled into a nice groove. Miguel wasn't afraid to ask questions of his veteran teammates or put in extra hours on the practice field. The hard work paid dividends. In August, Miguel posted an 11-game hitting streak, raising his average to .279.
By September, the Marlins had passed the Phillies in the race for the Wild Card. Midway through the month, Miguel belted a three-run homer against the Braves to give Willis his 13th victory of the year. The win was the club’s seventh in a row, pushing them to 18 games over .500.
Philly battled back in the ensuing weeks, but Florida would not be denied. The Marlins secured their first playoff berth since 1997 as the regular season drew to a close. Miguel finished the year at .268 with 36 extra-base hits. He was at his best with runners in scoring position. Indeed, he posted a .375 average in RBI situations, which tied for fourth in the league.
The Marlins entered the post-season a confident bunch. Though Willis was tiring, the rest of the staff was rounding into shape, while the offense had evolved into one of baseball’s most opportunistic. With Lowell returning to health, McKeon was forced to re-examine Miguel’s role. After Miguel went hitless in eight at-bats with four K’s during the first two games of the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, McKeon gave him a seat on the bench for Game Three. He reinserted Lowell in the lineup and, although the All-Star third baseman looked rusty in his return, Florida won and took a 2-1 series advantage. With a chance to send the Giants packing, McKeon shuffled the deck again, moving Miguel to rightfield. Eager to reward his skipper, he had a huge day. It began with a great catch on a flyball off the bat of Barry Bonds, and ended with four hits and three RBIs in a thrilling 7-6 victory.
Up next for the Marlins were the surging Chicago Cubs and their pair of aces, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, in the National League Championship Series. Florida seized an early edge, with a split at Wrigley Field. When Miguel homered off Carlos Zambrano in Game One, he became the second-youngest player to leave the yard in the post-season (behind Andruw Jones). He also launched a home run the following day against Prior.
When the series shifted to Florida, the Cubs appeared to put themselves in control with a pair of wins. But the Marlins responded with three straight victories. Game Six provided the defining moment of the series, as Florida scored eight times in the eighth in front of a stunned crowd at Wrigley. In the decider, Miguel clouted a three-run homer off Wood, setting the tone for Florida’s 9-6 win. Beckett, who pitched magnificently, was named NLCS MVP, overshadowing Miguel’s performance. For the series, the youngster batted .333, with three HRs and six RBIs.
In the World Series, the Marlins continued to shock the baseball world. Matched against the mighty Yankees, they beat New York in six, as Beckett blanked the Bronx Bombers in the finale. Miguel’s personal highlight was a home run off Roger Clemens in Game Four. Like every post-season contest, his family gathered together and watched the action in Maracay. Miguel had moved his parents and sister to a big apartment in a nicer section of town.
Miguel walked away from his first post-season with 12 RBIs and a championship ring. Equally remarkable was the fact that at no time did he look the least bit awestruck or uncomfortable. His teammates kept waiting for the moment to catch up with him, but it never did, despite pressure that would have buckled seasoned veterans.
Even the demands of national celebrity didn't faze Miguel. The rookie was besieged the media and endorsement offers when he flew back home after the World Series. Named Venezuelan Sportsman of the Year, Miguel became his country’s hottest pitchman. His most notable commercial was a TV spot for Malton, a nonalcoholic drink.
Fans couldn’t get enough of him, either. Leaving his home turned into a major ordeal, as autograph seekers wouldn’t leave him alone.
This level of celebrity was an excellent primer for the 2004 campaign. After their second world title in seven years, the Marlins had the spotlight focused squarely on them. The team pulled off a couple of moves to prepare for the defense of their championship. Lee was shipped to the Cubs for Hee Seop Choi, Rodríguez skipped town via free agency, and Armando Benitez was signed as the new closer.
Nobody received more attention than Miguel. Critics wondered whether he was a flash in the pan, while supporters wanted to see him build on his amazing rookie campaign. Miguel showed up for spring training in the best shape of his life, the result of a vigorous off-season conditioning program that turned his remaining baby fat into muscle.
He opened the '04 season batting over .300 and right up there with the league leaders in homers, RBIs and slugging. As Florida struggled to re-gel after its myriad lineup changes, it was Miguel’s bat that boosted the franchise to the best April in its history. He continued to produce into the summer. In July Miguel was named to the NL All-Star team. He entered the Mid-Summer Classic hitting .295 with 20 homers and 59 RBIs.
Heading into the second half, Miguel and the Marlins were confident they could turn it on as they had in '03. Despite their 45-43 record, they were still within a game and a half of Philadelphia for the NL East lead. When the club was still hovering around .500 two weeks later, management felt it had to make a move, and Penny and Choi were dealt to Los Angeles for catcher Paul Lo Duca, former Marlin Encarnacion, and set-up man Guillermo Mota.
Initially, however, the trade did nothing to stir Florida. The Marlins went 11-11 in the weeks that followed, and lost crucial ground in the division. They reversed the slide with a nine-game winning streak starting in late August. By then, the Wild Card was their only real hope. But Florida could not sustain its momentum. The team finished third in the NL East, and watched as the Houston Astros surged to the fourth and final playoff spot.
Of the problems that sunk the Marlins—banged up starting pitching and inconsistent years from Pierre and Castillo being the chief culprits—Miguel was not one of them. Offensively, he had a fantastic season. Florida's best run producer, he batted .294 with 33 homers, 112 RBIs, and 101 runs scored. Miguel's club-leading 148 strikeouts were somewhat alarming. (But given his power numbers, the Marlins have no reason to change his free-swinging ways.)
Unflappable as always, Miguel also adjusted well to being an everyday outfielder. McKeon bounced him between right and left, and Miguel had his lapses every now and then. Overall, however, he proved an adequate defender.
Miguel enjoyed his finest season yet in 2005. He wound up in the NL's Top Five in batting average (.323) and RBIs (116), tied his career high with 33 homers and set personal bests with 106 runs and 43 doubles. An All-Star for the second time, Miguel rose to the status of baseball's elite sluggers. But it was some late-season problems off the field that earned him the most headlines.With the Marlins underachieving most the year, the club staggered down the stretch and finished far out of the playoffs. Players questioned whether McKeon has outlived his usefullness. Management agreed, and canned the veteran skipper. Clearly, Florida needed a new voice. Miguel made the mistake of opening his mouth at the wrong time. Late in the year, he blasted his teammates, coaches and anyone else who had tried to give him advice during the season. The outburst caught many by surprise, especially since it seemed unprovoked. Miguel had demonstrated a certain immaturity at times earlier in his career, but never had he been exposed as such a disruptive force.
What lies ahead for him and the Marlins is an intriguing question. In as manager is Joe Girardi, who was a no-nonsense catcher during his playing days and figures to bring a similar attitude to Florida. Chances are Girardi won't have Burnett on his pitching staff, and the everyday lineup may feature a new wrinkle or two as well. The new manager's greatest challenge may be corralling Miguel. Even though 2005 didn't play out as another Fish Story, it was another impressive chapter in one of the game’s most compelling young careers. Indeed, teams around baseball are still lamenting Miguel as a big one who got away.
 Miguel the Player
While considered a very talented player, there have been questions from observers and teammates regarding his work ethic. During a July 9th, 2006 7-6 road loss to the Mets there was an incident involving Miguel and his teammate Scott Olsen. Olsen had matched Mets starter Tom Glavine until the Mets took a 2-0 lead on Xavier Nady's two-run home run. An agitated Olsen was able to retire the next two batters before Jose Valentin doubled to left. The next batter, Paul Lo Duca, hit a hard grounder that glanced off Miguel's glove and rolled into left field. Valentin scored and Lo Duca raced to second with a double.
While the play glanced off of Cabrera's glove, Olsen seemed to believe that Miguel did not give his full effort to get to the ball, and Olsen spoke to Miguel about it. As they came off the field, Olsen could be seen shouting something at Miguel. A moment later, television cameras showed Miguel in the crowded dugout reaching past teammates to poke Olsen in the head with a finger as the pitcher walked past him. Olsen tried to jab back at Miguel, who charged Olsen and tried to kick the pitcher before both players were quickly separated by teammates.
Miguel moved back to third base in the 2006 season, and was voted to the All-Star team at this position. However, his defense was one of the reasons given for the National League's loss to the American League in the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. With 2 outs in the 9th inning, and the National League leading 2-1, Paul Konerko singled off of Trevor Hoffman to start a 9th inning rally that eventually led to the American League's victory and the AL securing home-field advantage in the 2006 World Series.
After the game, many writers and commentators noted that Cabrera was not playing in the best possible position to stop Konerko's single. Manager Phil Garner was criticized for not bringing in the veteran Scott Rolen in the 9th inning for defensive reasons.
- At 20 years and 63 days, Miguel became the second-youngest Marlin in franchise history, behind Felix Heredia (20 years, 52 days).
- On Thursday, June 22, 2006, Cabrera singled on the first pitch of an attempted intentional walk, a very unusual occurrence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=307JjYw1fCg .
- Made the National League All-Star team in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
- Became the first player in Marlins history to have 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI in consecutive seasons.
- Won his first Silver Slugger award in 2005 and his second in 2006.
- Youngest player in Major League Baseball history to belt back-to-back 30 homer seasons (22 years, 143 days). Albert Pujols of the Cardinals did it at 22 years, 223 days.
- Miguel is just the third player since 1900 to hit a game-winning home run in his big-league debut. The other two were Josh Bard in 2002 and Billy Parker in 1971.
- “He can field. He can hit. He has a lot of power. He can hit the opposite way. He has everything you can ask of a major-league player.”
—White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen
- “When he connects, it’s almost like a shotgun going off, it’s so loud.”
—Marlins batting coach Bill Robinson
- “The kid can play. The kid has talent. He’s going to do nothing but grow. He’s a very blessed kid.”
—Teammate Dontrelle Willis
- “He gets big hits with guys on base. He’s going to be real good.”
—Phillies manager Larry Bowa
- “I just sat there stunned, seeing that not even the World Series fazed him.”
- “He’s a superstar in the making. He already is a phenomenal player, but he’s going to be good for a long, long time.”
—Former Teammate Jeff Conine
- “He’s going to be unbelievable. He’s got so much poise and maturity—I tip my hat to him.”
—Former Teammate Mike Lowell
- “We haven’t found a weakness in him yet. There are ways of getting him out, but if you do it too often, he’ll burn you.”
—Hall of Famer Frank Robinson
 See also
 External links
- ESPN - profile and daily updates
- Baseball Reference - career statistics and analysis
- Miguel on the 06 season
- D-Train rolls ones:José Miguel Torres Cabrera