Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera joins 3,000-hit club

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Miguel Cabrera became the 33rd player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits Saturday, delivering a single off Colorado Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela to right field in the first inning at Comerica Park in Game 1 of a doubleheader. 

Cabrera sent the third pitch of the at-bat against Senzatela, on a 1-1 count, on the ground between first and second base for history. Former teammate José Iglesias, a Tiger from 2013-18, was the first to hug Cabrera on the field.

The 39-year-old, from Venezuela, is one of the greatest hitters of all time, and he’s arguably the best right-handed hitter of his generation. His Hall of Fame-worthy résumé is stacked: The 20-year MLB veteran is a longtime Detroit Tigers icon, a Triple Crown winner, World Series champion, two-time MVP, 11-time All-Star and seven-time Silver Slugger.

“This is history,” Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario said recently. “He’s a Hall of Famer for me, for a lot of guys, for everybody.”

“When we’re long gone, they’re still gonna be talking about Miguel Cabrera,” Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman said. “100 years from now, they’re gonna still talk about Miguel Cabrera. This only happens every once every hundred-something years.”

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The previous player to reach 3,000 hits was Albert Pujols, who accomplished the feat with a single May 4, 2018. Adrián Beltré (double) did so in July 2017; Ichiro Suzuki (triple) in August 2016; Alex Rodriguez (home run) in June 2015; and Derek Jeter (home run) in July 2011.

Cabrera is the 10th player since 2000 to reach 3,000 hits.

Of the 33 players in the 3,000 hits club, 20 accomplished the milestone with a single, eight with a double, two with a triple and three with a home run. 

“Like Tigers fans, I’ve been proud to witness Miggy’s amazing and historic 3,000 hit and 500 home run milestones, putting him among a select few MLB legends,” Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch said in a congratulatory statement released during the game. “I thank Miguel for a career of exciting, Hall of Fame caliber play towards our objective of championship baseball for Tigers fans. Miggy has and continues to build his status as one of the greatest Tigers of all-time.”

Saturday’s milestone followed three singles Wednesday night against the New York Yankees as Cabrera climbed to 2,999 hits: an infield hit to third in the second inning, a clean grounder up the middle in the fourth inning and a broken-bat dribbler between shortstop and third base in the sixth inning. He struck out in the eighth inning.

Cabrera went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Thursday, coming closest to a hit in his first at-bat, a high fly to left field in the first inning. It was doubtful he’d get a fourth plate appearance Thursday, but the Tigers, leading 1-0, put two runners in scoring position with two outs in the eighth inning to bring him up one final time. Yankees manager Aaron Boone intentionally walked Cabrera, so the wait for 3,000 continued.

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Seven months ago, Cabrera reached another elite milestone: 500 career home runs. He hammered a changeup from Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Steven Matz (now with the St. Louis Cardinals) over the right-center field wall in the sixth inning Aug. 22 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

“Seeing Miguel grow from a teenager taking batting practice on neighborhood fields in Venezuela to becoming one of the best players in baseball history has been one of the great joys of my life,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said in a released statement. “His humility, passion for having fun and genuine love of the city of Detroit are completely unmatched and joining the 3,000 hit club only strengthens his standing as one of the game’s all-time greats. This is a tremendous accomplishment, and we know there are many more exciting times on the horizon.”

Cabrera is one of seven players in MLB history with at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, joining Pujols, Rodriguez, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro. There’s an even rarer club within that one that’s well within reach: Only Aaron, and Pujols also have 600 doubles, with Cabrera at 599.

“He’s an icon in Venezuela,” Tigers utility player Harold Castro, a fellow Venezuelan, said. “Everybody knows him. Everybody wants to be like him. Every kid who starts playing baseball wants to be like him. … It means a lot for me to be around him and watching him putting up those numbers and making history. … I don’t have a word to describe his career. You can’t describe his career.”

Senzatela and Rockies catcher Elias Díaz also hail from Venezuela.

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Notable position players born in Venezuela include Luis Aparicio, Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepción, Bobby Abreu, Andrés Galarraga, Ozzie Guillén, Victor Martínez, Magglio Ordóñez, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus.

Cabrera leads the pack in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs.

“He’s No. 1 from my country,” Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez said, another Venezuelan. “The numbers say everything to me.”

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Tracking the milestones

A “Miggy Milestones” countdown board was installed last July at Comerica Park, reminding everyone in the ballpark of Cabrera’s achievements. Each time he recorded a hit, the fans in the stands erupted in cheers.

Cabrera has played 15 years with Comerica Park as his home stadium. He became a Tiger in December 2007, thanks to then-Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski’s trade with the then-Florida Marlins. Three months later, Cabrera inked an eight-year, $152.3 million contract extension.

He reached 1,000 hits in September 2008, then 1,500 in July 2011. By April 2014, Cabrera had his 2,000th hit. Hit No. 2,500 came in September 2016. His 500th career home run marked his 2,955th hit.

Another eight-year contract extension — worth $248 million — was reached in 2014. The deal kicked in before the 2016 season and takes Cabrera through the 2023 season. He is owed $32 million this season and next.

“It’s really special for me,” Candelario said. “I have been here five years, since 2017, and being with him and being part of the last five or six years of his career has been amazing.”

Cabrera has said he plans to retire after his contact expires but is eyeing another World Series title. He won the 2003 World Series as a rookie with the Marlins, but with the Tigers, he was swept by the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series.

“Before he leaves this game, we want to be in the postseason and fight for the World Series,” Candelario said. “That’s what we want right now. We’re going to do our best that we can do for our team and for him, because he deserves it, and for the beautiful fans in Detroit.”

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The slugger is a four-time American League batting champion, hitting .344 in 2011, .330 in 2012, .348 in 2013 and .338 in 2015. He posted back-to-back MVP seasons in 2012 and 2013, including a Triple Crown in 2012.

Cabrera entered 2022 with 2,987 hits. He picked up four hits in the Tigers’ six-game homestand to open the season, then notched three hits in the team’s first road game April 14 against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. He tallied another hit April 15.

The Tigers returned to Comerica Park on Tuesday, with Cabrera five hits from the historic milestone, for a six-game homestand against the Yankees and Rockies. He went 1-for-3 on Tuesday, 3-for-4 on Wednesday and 0-for-3 on Thursday. Friday’s series opener against the Rockies was postponed due to rain, forcing a doubleheader Saturday.

In Game 1, Cabrera registered No. 3,000.

“The way he prepares and the way he has fun with everything, it’s incredible what he’s done,” Tigers shortstop Javier Báez said. “Obviously he’s going to get 3,000, but we’ll see how far he can take it.”

Cabrera compares well to the members of the 500 homers/3,000 hits/600 doubles club. Hitting .310 through 2,599 games, he has a higher career batting average than Aaron and Pujols.

Aaron hit .305 over his 23-year career; Pujols, still active and likely in his final season with the Cardinals, boasts a .297 batting average over his 22-year career.

“His career speaks for itself,” Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “First ballot Hall of Famer, ain’t no doubt about that. To me, the thing that sticks out is how much fun he has playing. It’s refreshing.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

The 3,000 club

Miguel Cabrera is the 33rd player with 3,000 hits in MLB history. The list:

Pete Rose: 4,256.

Ty Cobb: 4,189.

Hank Aaron: 3,771.

San Musial: 3,630.

Tris Speaker: 3,514.

Derek Jeter: 3,465.

Honus Wagner: 3,430.

Carl Yastrzemski: 3,419.

Paul Molitor: 3,319.

Eddie Collins: 3,315.

Albert Pujols: 3,308.

Willie Mays: 3,293.

Eddie Murray: 3,225.

Nap Lajoie: 3,525.

Cap Anson: 3,435.

Cal Ripken Jr.: 3,184.

Adrián Beltré: 3,166.

George Brett: 3,154.

Paul Waner: 3,152.

Robin Yount: 3,142.

Tony Gwynn: 3,141.

Alex Rodriguez: 3,115.

Dave Winfield: 3,110.

Ichiro Suzuki: 3,089.

Craig Biggio: 3,060.

Rickey Henderson: 3,055.

Rod Carew: 3,053.

Lou Brock: 3,023.

Rafael Palmeiro: 3,020.

Wade Boggs: 3,010.

Al Kaline: 3,007.

Roberto Clemente: 3,000.

Miguel Cabrera: 3,000.

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