Cabrera entered one of baseball’s more revered inner circles as the 28th member of the 500-home run club, becoming the first to join it since David Ortiz in September 2015 and, perhaps, the last new member we see for quite a while: 41-year-old Nelson Cruz is next on the active list with 443 homers (though he continues to defy Father Time), followed by 38-year-old Robinson Canó with 334 and 31-year-old Giancarlo Stanton with 332.
Cabrera’s résumé as an 11-time All-Star, two-time American League MVP Award winner, four-time AL batting champ and AL Triple Crown winner contains way more than just big flies, of course. As the baseball world congratulates Cabrera, here are 11 amazing facts and figures to reflect on about the pride of Maracay, Venezuela:
• Cabrera entered Sunday still owning a healthy career batting average of .311 and stood just 46 hits shy of 3,000. He could eventually retire with a .300-plus average, 500-plus doubles, 500-plus homers and 3,000-plus hits. If so, he’d be the only third Modern Era AL/NL player (since 1900) to check all those boxes, following arguably the two greatest right-handed hitters in AL/NL history: Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.
• The number of AL/NL players with 500 career homers and 3,000 hits is also very small, of course: Aaron, Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Cabrera remains under contract with the Tigers through at least the end of the 2023 season (with vesting options for ‘24 and ‘25), meaning he would be on 3,000-hit watch at the start of ‘22 if he doesn’t get there before the end of ‘21.
• Cabrera is the first Venezuelan-born player to bash 500 career home runs, and he would be the country’s first player to reach 3,000 hits as well. He is the sixth 500-home run club member born outside the United States, joining Ortiz, Palmeiro, Pujols, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa. By slugging his milestone blast in Toronto, Cabrera became the first player to hit his 500th homer outside the United States.
• Do you remember Cabrera’s first homer? It was a walk-off shot against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 11th inning of his first Major League game on June 20, 2003. The 20-year-old Cabrera joined Billy Parker (1972) and Josh Bard (2002) as only the third Modern Era player to club a walk-off homer in his MLB debut. Carlos Pèrez (2015) has joined that club since.
• The baseball world first got a glimpse of Cabrera’s greatness at large when, later that year, he homered off seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the World Series. He is still the second-youngest player (after Andruw Jones) to go deep in the Fall Classic.
Cabrera’s Marlins would defeat the Yankees in six games to win that World Series, and while Cabrera hasn’t worn a Marlins uniform since 2007, he is still fifth on the franchise’s all-time homer list (138) and fourth on its RBIs list (523).
• Cabrera went on to have his best years, of course, with the Tigers. He captured four AL batting crowns in a span of five years, including three straight from 2011-13. Believe it or not, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby (1920-25) is the only other AL/NL right-handed hitter in the Live Ball Era (dating back to 1920) to claim three consecutive batting crowns, with right-handed hitters Nap Lajoie (1901-04) and Honus Wagner (1906-09) achieving the feat in the Dead Ball Era. In other words, Cabrera is the only right-handed hitter in over 100 years of AL/NL baseball to take home three league batting titles in a row.
Adding Cabrera’s most recent crown in 2015, he is on a short list of players with at least four batting titles in the Live Ball Era, joining Tony Gwynn (eight-time batting champ), Rod Carew (seven), Hornsby (seven), Stan Musial (seven), Ted Williams (six), Wade Boggs (five), Roberto Clemente (four), Harry Heilmann (four) and Bill Madlock (four).
• In 2012, Cabrera led the AL with 44 homers, 139 RBIs (both Major League bests as well) and a .330 average to become the first league Triple Crown winner since Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski claimed the honor in 1967. No player has achieved the feat since.
Cabrera’s historic season helped him edge Mike Trout for his first of two consecutive AL MVP Awards, the first AL player to claim back-to-back MVP honors since Frank Thomas (1993-94). No player in either league has captured back-to-back MVPs since Miggy.
• Cabrera topped 100 RBIs for the first time at just 21 years old for the 2004 Marlins, tying many others for the second-youngest AL/NL 100-RBI season behind 20-year-olds Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Rodriguez, Juan Soto and Williams. Cabrera logged at least 100 RBIs each year until his injury-shortened 2015 season, a run of 11 consecutive 100-RBI campaigns that’s tied with Al Simmons for the fourth-longest streak by any Modern Era AL/NL player behind Rodriguez (13), Jimmie Foxx (13) and Lou Gehrig (13).
Cabrera’s 12 100-RBI seasons are tied for sixth most in the Modern Era behind Pujols (14), Rodriguez (14), Foxx (13), Gehrig (13) and Babe Ruth (13).
• Three hundred total bases can be used as a loose benchmark for an accomplished hitting season, and Cabrera first crossed that threshold in 2004. He proceeded to rattle off 10 more consecutive 300-total base campaigns with Florida and Detroit through ’14 for an 11-year streak that only trails Gehrig (13), Mays (13) and Pujols (12) for the longest among Modern Era AL/NL players.
After an injury-shortened 2015 season, Cabrera added his most recent 300-total base campaign in ‘16 to give him 12 total, tied with Pujols for fifth on the Modern Era AL/NL list behind Aaron (15), Mays (13), Musial (13) and Gehrig (13).
• Though Cabrera’s career is not yet over, his place among Tigers legends is already very much secure. His 362 homers in a Tigers uniform rank third on the franchise’s all-time list behind Kaline (399) and Norm Cash (373). Cabrera entered Sunday with a .531 slugging percentage as a Tiger, putting him in a fairly safe position for second on the Tigers’ all-time list, behind Hank Greenberg (.616) and ahead of Harry Heilmann (.518). His .919 OPS for Detroit is safely ahead of Charlie Gehringer (.884) for fourth on the list behind Greenberg (1.028), Cobb (.951) and Heilmann (.927).
• Hall of Famer Musial famously retired with a perfectly symmetrical 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, giving him one of the coolest stats in baseball history. Cabrera doesn’t quite have the perfect split Musial had, but he’s pretty close (and there’s still time): He entered Sunday with 1,488 hits at home and 1,466 hits on the road. His homer split is also almost perfectly even: 248 long balls at home and 252 on the road.