Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Miguel Cabrera right on schedule with MLB greats for No. 500

Detroit Free Press

One hit.

That’s all the Detroit Tigers fans packing Comerica Park — well, as much as they could (and maybe more than) in a pandemic — were hoping for, all weekend long.

And, of course, the baseball gods obliged as they often do: One hit.

By Harold Castro. To break up a perfect game on Sunday, after 11 homerless plate appearances from Miguel Cabrera from Friday-Sunday.

The lesson, as always, is this: When dealing with the baseball gods — or “baseball fate,” as Tigers manager AJ Hinch put it Wednesday night — it pays to be specific.

Hello, and welcome to the No. 499 No. 500 Newsletter

How Tigers could use excitement around Miggy’s HR chase to lure a superstar free agent ]

(And yes, we know Cabrera also got one hit in those plate appearances, as well as one hit-by-pitch. Neither are what they’re paying the man nearly 40% of the total payroll to produce. Not yet, anyway.)

Then again, Hinch tried negotiation with “baseball fate” on Thursday, changing his mind and sitting Cabrera for the series finale in Baltimore.

And so, instead of a quick milestone dinger and some Old Bay-flavored applause in Charm City, we got 11 rapturous ovations, followed by sudden silences, camera flashes and rippling roars that disclosed how rare the ability to judge the flight of a flyball truly is.

[ Want more Tigers news and analysis in your inbox every Monday morning? Sign up for our Tigers newsletter. ]

Not that you could find many folks at Comerica Park complaining about the chance to witness the face of the franchise for the past decade-plus join one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs. The Freep’s Jeff Seidel was in the stands all weekend, and if there was one thing he learned, it was how much Tigers fans were ready to express their veneration for the Venezuelan slugger. (If there was a second thing, it was … well, you’ll just have to click here, won’t you?)

Still, three games without a homer, sandwiched between one unplanned and one planned day off, means we’re going on five days without the one hit we’ve been anticipating for most of 2021.

Five days. That’s almost as much time as it takes Disney to release another Marvel TV show.

But is that actually a long time to go from No. 499 to No. 500? Lucky for you, we’re delaying binge-watching “Loki” until “The God Of Oppo Tacos” gets to 500, so we had some time to check in with the 27 members of the 500-homer club (hallowed be thy Louisville Sluggers) as to how many games it took them to go from 499 to 500.

THE CHASE: When Miguel Cabrera should hit 500th HR, according to numbers

Semi-instant gratification: Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz

This trio went from 498 to 500 in a single day; Robinson homered in both ends of a doubleheader against the Tigers (with 16 innings in between), and Pujols and Ortiz both homered in the first and fifth innings of their milestone games.

‘And we’ll see you … tomorrow night’: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Mel Ott

This is the most popular category, with seven players hitting No. 500 the game after No. 499. Ott did have a homer-free game between 499 and 500, though; he homered in Game 1 of a doubleheader, was blanked in Game 2, then hit No. 500 the next time out. Probably not a sleepless night there.

A pause for refreshment: Reggie Jackson

Aside from Ott, Jackson is the only slugger of the 27 who hit No. 499, didn’t homer the next game, and then hit No. 500 the game after that. Even “The Straw That Stirs the Drink” needs some recovery time, apparently.

Let’s take the weekend: Ernie Banks, Willie McCovey, Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez

Five sluggers each went two games without a homer in between Nos. 499 and 500 —homerless streaks, but not ones so long folks began to worry and write newsletters about other 500-homer hitters.

Three’s company: Hank Aaron, Frank Thomas

Two players, three games without a homer in between 499 and 500. Pretty normal, even if Aaron did apologize for the delay after he hit No. 500: “I’m sorry that I waited so long,” according to the Atlanta Constitution.

A weak week: Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Eddie Murray, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez

These five all went roughly a week without homering, with droughts ranging from five games (Murray, Griffey) to  eight (Rodriguez). And then there was Mathews, who played in just two games over a week’s time – and homered in both. Technically, he homered in back-to-back games, but, yeah, there was some waiting involved. (Perhaps not shockingly, he was dealt from Houston to the Tigers five weeks later.)

Two weeks, too long: Jimmie Foxx, Harmon Killebrew

This duo averaged 14 games between Nos. 499 and 500, despite having excellent seasons otherwise. Killebrew played in the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium — he homered, too, but it didn’t count toward his career total, unfortunately — and Foxx finished with 36 homers in 1940, one more than he’d led the AL with the year before. Sometimes great hitters just go cold.

Wait of the world: Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield

And, finally, we have the duo which waited the longest. Not in games — Sosa went three homer-free games between big blasts and Sheffield went eight — but in days: Both hit No. 499 near the end of one season, then had to wait until the start of the next season (and, in Sheffield’s case, had to change teams after a sudden release in spring training). All told, Sosa went 187 days between home runs, and Sheffield went 203 days. Ouch.

Still, they all got to No. 500, with an average wait of 3.03 games among them. Which means that, yes, homering Tuesday would be right on schedule for Miggy — and even waiting till Thursday would put him on par with Griffey and ahead of Mantle.

Which, like so much else about the 500-homer club, is fine company indeed.

By the numbers

Of course, if you’re planning to hit Comerica Park this week in hopes of seeing Cabrera make history, Our Man Seidel crunched some numbers to figure out where (and when) the right place to stand is. Click here to get his scoop on the atmosphere in the park (and why it’s a heckuva selling point for a certain free-agent shortstop). Hinch was proud of the atmosphere, as well, especially during Saturday night comeback victory. As the Freep’s Evan Petzold notes here, it was the largest crowd at the CoPa in more than two years.

Eye Candy

Cabrera didn’t go deep, but Jeimer Candelario did, with a two-run blast that started Saturday’s scoring. It was just another example of Candelario’s steady offense this season, to go with his 32 doubles that rank second in the American League. Yes, second, right there with J.D. Martinez. Our Man Petzold broke down here why Candelario has already established himself as part of the Tigers’ future core.

Holy Toledo!

A couple other projected members of that core were on the move Sunday: top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene (plus infielder Ryan Kreidler) were promoted from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo. But before you rush out to buy Tork/Greene Tigers jerseys, you should know this: Hinch and the Tigers’ front office are adamant the duo won’t make their MLB debuts this season. Click here to find out why.

And while youre clicking, here’s a quick refresher on why Our Man Seidel (and Tom Izzo, maybe) likes Kreidler so much.

Yeahhhhh, Boooyyyyyyyyyyyyddddd!

You knew it was coming: Yes, Matthew Boyd’s rehab is progressing, with the lefty making a start Friday with Toledo. Our Man Petzold has the details here on Boyd’s rehab plan, including why he’s showing “no fear” on the mound again.

(One pitcher whose rehab isn’t going so well? Julio Teheran, who as Our Man Petzold writes here, may just about be out of options for 2021.)

Welcome back, Mr. Nunez

It was a big week for the Toledo-to-Detroit-by-way-of-Baltimore shuttle, as first baseman Renato Nunez also returned to the majors. Our Man Petzold reports here that ‘everything just clicked’ for Nunez, who is 4-for-15 with two homers since rejoining the Tigers; click here to find out why he stayed with the organization after being DFA’d in April.

3 to watch

Spanning the glove from Dearborn to Windsor (with a stop in Puerto Rico first) …

WILLI CASTRO: Will a move to the outfield slow down his sophomore slump?

ERIC HAASE: No Tiger has more blasts this season, but it was a bloop that was big on Saturday.

JACOB ROBSON: Raised in “South Detroit” (better known as Windsor), the rookie made his first MLB start, while his parents went to extremes to cross the Detroit River.

Happy Baaaaaaaddoooooooooo-day!

As of Monday, sportswriters across the country — including here in the Newsletter-Cave — will have to update their stock phrasebook: No longer is Akil Baddoo “the Tigers’ 22-year-old Rule 5 draft pick” — he’s now “the Tigers’ 23-year-old Rule 5 draft pick.” Birthdays are nice, but the day Baddoo is likely most looking forward to is Wednesday; that’s when he’s eligible to return from the seven-day concussion IL after his brutal collision with Derek Hill in Baltimore. As Our Man Petzold reports here, Baddoo already has a leg up on his return.

Other Tigers birthdays this week: Mike Maroth (44 on Tuesday), Matt Anderson (45 on Tuesday), Rudy York (would have been 108 on Tuesday, died in 1970), Justin Wilson (34 on Wednesday), Bobby Higginson (51 on Wednesday), J.D. Martinez (34 on Saturday), Drew Hutchison (31 on Sunday, when he’s scheduled to start in Toronto), Jeff Weaver (45 on Sunday)

Mark your calendar!

Yes, we all get a day to recover from that weekend series, and then it’s six straight games to get one hit: three against the Angels at Comerica Park from Tuesday-Thursday, followed by three against the Blue Jays in Toronto from Friday-Saturday. Here’s hoping Miggy hits No. 500 before heading north; if he hits it there, he might come back with only 499.79 homers.

Thursday’s matinee is also the next scheduled start for Matt Manning. His ERA is the highest among the Tigers’ three rookies in the rotation, but we’ll note that’s a product of two horrific starts against Cleveland, in which he allowed 15 earned runs in 7⅔ innings. Against the non-Guardians-of-the-future, he has a 3.95 ERA in 41 innings. That’s largely due to his work with pitching coach Chris Fetter; Our Man Petzold has the scoop here on how Fetter has helped Manning go two starts without a walk allowed.

TL;DR

While we’re discussing droughts between homer Nos. 499 and 500, we’d be remiss in failing to point out that in 2007, A-Rod went eight games (over nine days) waiting for his milestone blast. When folks talk about “a special kind of hell” in baseball circles, being stuck on homer No. 499 for a week and a half in early August in New York — with only three hits in 27 at-bats, to boot — springs to mind.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

Articles You May Like

Expectations are high for a busy Winter Meetings
Justin Verlander joins New York Mets on big-money deal, rejoins ex-Tigers ace Max Scherzer
Former Free Press writer John Lowe wins BBWA Career Excellence Award, going to Hall of Fame
Detroit Tigers sign left-hander Matthew Boyd to one-year, $10 million contract
MLB Draft Lottery set for Tues., 8:30 p.m. ET (MLB Network)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *