The days are dwindling for Miguel Cabrera as a baseball player. He can feel it now.
As his 21st, and final, Major League season nears an end, retirement feels real. It’s not just a farewell tour and gifts. It’s a conclusion.
“Yeah, it’s getting emotional,” he admitted last Sunday morning in his corner of the visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium. “Can’t stop thinking about it.”
Once the Tigers return to Comerica Park next week for the final homestand, it’s going to truly hit home. For all the amazing moments we’ve seen from Cabrera over the years — the serious, driven competitor, the fun-loving kid at heart, the supportive teammate, the quiet leader — we’re about to see an emotional side of Cabrera we’ve rarely witnessed.
“I’m sure it’ll be pretty emotional for him and for us,” teammate Tarik Skubal said. “I think it’ll be emotional for me, too. We’ll see how he handles it. I was a part of Jordan Zimmermann’s last game [as a Tiger, in 2020]. He opened the game and I came in and pitched next. He was emotional when he came out, and I was down in the tunnel, and so was I. And I had known him for six weeks.
“I’m not looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to that last game he suits up for us. It doesn’t seem real yet.”
Eduardo Rodriguez knows how this goes. He was with the Red Sox for David Ortiz’s final season in 2016.
“It feels like Miggy’s taking it much better,” Rodriguez said. “Miggy’s enjoying it. He’s going out there every day, he’s playing every game they put him out there, and he’s just enjoying it. That’s what I really take from it. It’s kind of like he’s not really going to retire. That’s the way that I feel about it. He’s taking it like another season. I think that’s the way that he’s controlling that part of it. He’s not thinking, ‘OK, this is my last game here.’
“I don’t feel that sadness [yet] that we’re going to feel next week. Everybody’s going to feel it, including him.”
Rodriguez isn’t ready for that yet.
“No. Nobody is,” he said, “including you guys. Nobody’s ready for that. That’s how I felt with Papi: Nobody was ready until that last game. I remember after we finished the season in Boston. We all went in the clubhouse and he came out on the field for the home fans. We saw it on TV because we were already inside. He started crying and that’s when you really felt it, like he’s gone. That’s how I feel it’s going to be with Miggy.”
Turns out it has already been getting emotional for Cabrera. He just hasn’t shown it.
Part of it undoubtedly is the uncertainty of what’s next. For two decades, Cabrera has had most of his days mapped out on an itinerary, whether based on a baseball schedule or offseason workouts. After next Sunday, that schedule is wide open.
Cabrera has talked with manager A.J. Hinch and others with the club about a role in retirement, something along the lines of a special assistant. He might not spend his summers traversing the farm system like Hall of Famer Alan Trammell — nobody does it like Tram — but he wants to be around to contribute. He wants to pass down his knowledge and love of the game.
“I want to stay with this team and help, do something,” he said. “I don’t want to be coaching. I want to move around. …
“Let’s see what happens. But I want to be around these guys. These guys, they’re special. They’re growing right now. They’re maturing. I think next year they’re going to be better.”