01/15/09 6:04 PM EST
Cabrera named King Tiger for 2008
Slugger adds to trophy case in his first year in Detroit
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The honor, revived five years ago after a generation-long dormancy, comes after Cabrera received the Tiger of the Year award from the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America in November. He heads into the spring as the American League's reigning home run champion, having powered his way through his first season as a Tiger.
It was another Detroit first baseman, Cecil Fielder, who was last able to win a home run title for Detroit, having led the AL in 1990 and '91. Cabrera took command of the league race down the stretch after White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin suffered a season-ending injury at the beginning of September. Cabrera hit nine home runs from Aug. 31 on, part of a 26-homer barrage after July 1.
It was the sign that Cabrera was growing comfortable with his new league and team after joining the Tigers in the eight-player megadeal with the Marlins at last year's Winter Meetings. He faced a huge amount of pressure from the outset between the trade, the team's extraordinarily high expectations and the eight-year, $152.3 million contract he signed in the final week of Spring Training.
Those pressures seemed to weigh on him early in the season, as the Tigers and Cabrera struggled in tandem. Though Cabrera hit respectably over the first two months, his run production nonetheless was off from his previous years in Florida, where he drove in at least 112 runs in all four of his full Major League seasons to go with three 30-homer campaigns and three years with at least a .320 batting average and .946 on-base plus slugging percentage.
A position switch from third to first base, a late warm-up in Detroit from a cold spring and an ability to finally shrug off his burdens allowed Cabrera to emerge over the summer. His 37 home runs were the highest total for a Tiger since Dean Palmer hit 38 in 1999.
Besides the homer total, Cabrera's 331 total bases tied for the AL lead with Texas' Josh Hamilton. Cabrera's 127 RBIs ranked third in the league, while his 75 extra-base hits placed him fifth and his .537 slugging percentage stood seventh.
For a player in his first year as a Tiger, Cabrera's RBI total was the third highest in club history, just trailing Fielder's 132 RBIs in 1990 and Dale Alexander's 137 RBIs in 1929.
Other Tigers receiving votes among Mayo Smith Society members included Magglio Ordonez, last year's King Tiger winner, and Brandon Inge. Members will present Cabrera with the award during their annual trip to Spring Training on March 21-28.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.