Among the many highlights of Miguel Cabrera having fun playing baseball, his interactions with Adrián Beltré might rank near the top. Arguably nobody liked teasing Beltré by touching his head like Cabrera, and he’d try to do it every chance he got, whether he was standing on third base or Beltré was standing on first.
So as Cabrera stood on first base Monday night at Dodger Stadium, having recorded his 3,166th career hit with an opposite-field single off Lance Lynn to tie Beltré for 16th on Major League Baseball’s all-time list, it was fun to imagine Miggy sneaking up from behind on Beltré, taking off his hat and patting his head. Cabrera pulled even on Beltré’s old home turf, where Beltré spent his first seven seasons as a Dodger.
He couldn’t do that to anybody Monday, but he still had a fun moment celebrating. He yelled out at Mookie Betts, who stumbled trying to chase down Cabrera’s line drive towards the right-field line. Betts smiled and shrugged. Freddie Freeman gave Cabrera a bear hug at first base.
After Cabrera spent much of the summer passing legends on the career hits leaderboard, including Dave Winfield, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount and more recently George Brett, this one hits closer to home. Cabrera is about to pass more of a contemporary. With Cal Ripken Jr. next up, 18 hits away, this 16th place is probably where Cabrera is going to finish his career.
He’s fine with it. Even he has been in awe of some of the names he has been passing.
Before Monday’s game, Cabrera received his latest retirement gift, a framed Hollywood star from the Dodgers. J.D. Martinez, his former Tiger teammate and longtime workout partner in South Florida, helped make the presentation and gave him a hug at the end. Fellow Dodgers Miguel Rojas, David Peralta and Brusdar Graterol, all native Venezuelans, joined in the presentation.
It was Cabrera’s second gift ceremony in three days. On Saturday, he received a custom surfboard from the Angels, with good friend Albert Pujols and Mike Trout part of the presentation.
“[Pujols] was joking with me, ‘Get on the board! Get on the board,’” Cabrera said. “He wanted me laying on the board and swimming.”
Cabrera is scheduled to play Tuesday and sit Wednesday’s series finale. His last road series will be a four-game set this weekend in Oakland, site of his clutch home run in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the 2013 AL Division Series. He’s tentatively scheduled to play there Friday and Saturday.
From there, he’ll return to Detroit to play out his final week as a Major Leaguer at Comerica Park, with a six-game homestand culminating with Miggy Appreciation Weekend. Like so many years in his prime, he’s finishing the season strong. He has hit safely in eight of his 10 games so far in September, and he’s batting .350 (14-for-40) for the month with seven RBIs.
“I always prepare myself to do my best,” Cabrera said Sunday. “My hitting right now, I know I can’t do the same thing I do in the past, but I always want to compete. I always want to send a message to my teammates: It doesn’t matter if we’re losing or we’re winning, you have to go out there and compete hard.”