There is only one Miguel Cabrera.
Ahem, sorry. Let me correct myself. There is only one Miggy.
Maybe no one in this century has been able to do what Miggy has done in Major League Baseball. I don’t mean the 3,000 hits or the 500 home runs or the MVPs or whatever other numbers the statisticians get high on. I mean the way this behemoth Venezuelan baseball god has been able to dominate every pitcher in the sport but seemingly be bored doing it. It’s almost as if the sport was so easy for him that he’s needed to find a way to have fun elsewhere — whether that be grazing the bearded faces of fans or treating first base interactions like meet-ups beneath the middle school playground slide.
I’ve watched so much of Miggy throughout the years. I’ve been a Marlins fan my whole life (long live the teal) and fell in love with this lovable teddy bear when he was in Miami. Before he was the best hitter on the planet and a Triple Crown winner for the Detroit Tigers, Miggy was a wide-eyed 20-something-year-old rookie debuting on a lowly Wild Card-winning Florida Marlins team buoyed by a bevy of incredible young talent.
Miguel Cabrera has always been special.
In his Major League debut on June 20, 2003, the dude hit a rocket walk-off home run to dead center in the bottom of the 11th inning. Who else rises to the occasion like that in their first taste of big league ball?
But there’s one Miggy at-bat from that 2003 season — in the World Series nonetheless — that told me just how special this 20-year-old kid was going to be. He had Hall of Fame written all over him, and he couldn’t even legally buy a beer yet.
Miguel Cabrera’s Legendary At-Bat Against Roger Clemens
This will always be the Alex Gonzalez 12th inning walk-off home run game to me, but Game 4 of the 2003 World Series between the Florida Marlins and New York Yankees is a classic that featured one of the best at-bats you’ll ever see.
The 41-year-old Roger Clemens was on the bump for the Yanks. Clemens wasn’t that Roger Clemens at this point of his career, but he still had that devastating splitter and nobody-can-beat-me attitude. In the first inning, he’d face a kid half his age who had already hit three home runs that October.
Two quick outs and an Ivan Rodriguez single brought Miggy to the dish. For the rest of this at-bat, we’ll need to break it down pitch by pitch.
Pitch 1: The Warning Shot & Death Glare
A fastball that nearly took Miggy’s head off. It was a warning. Get the hell off my plate. This is supposed to set up pitches on the outer half of the plate. Miggy’s glare back at Roger freakin’ Clemens is an all-time face. From here, Miggy got absolutely locked in. Ball one.
Pitch 2: The Cutter
I told you it was setting him up. Roger throws a high-and-out cutter that Miggy can’t get on top of. He swings through it. Point to Clemens. But make no mistake about it: Miggy has logged that in his brain.
Pitch 3: The Splitter From Hell
The best part about Miguel Cabrera is that he can look so bad on one pitch and then so good on the next. He’s fooled badly here on this splitter. That’s now back-to-back swings with nothing to show for it. At this point, Miggy looks overmatched by a seasoned veteran. The count stands at 1-2.
Pitch 4: Back to the Splitter
Back to the splitter. Same pitch. Terrific take. Most rookies probably swing right over that again and Clemens knows that. You don’t get to be a legend at 41 without sending some rookies back to the bench shaking their heads. Not Miggy. He’s getting better, gaining knowledge with each pitch. It’s incredible to watch.
Pitch 5: The Two-Seamer In
Roger goes back inside with a two-seamer. Fouled off. He’s almost certainly setting Miggy up for something back outside or an off-speed in the dirt.
Pitch 6: The Two-Seamer Ripped Foul
Roger doubles up on the two-seamer, and it catches too much of the plate. That’s a dangerous pitch. Miggy is inches away from a double down the third-base line. Better not throw that one again.
Pitch 7: The Home Run
Pure bliss. Music to Miami’s ears. Roger throws some sort of fastball that didn’t move one way or another, but it’s the same spot as the second pitch. Miggy is all over it. Nobody has power to the opposite field like he does, and he’s been doing it since he was 20.
It was this at-bat that I knew the Marlins had struck gold with Miguel Cabrera. He was one of baseball’s best hitters by his early 20s and was sadly traded to the Tigers before the 2008 season for what amounted to a bag of peanuts (I’m sorry, Cameron Maybin, but it’s true).
Clemens, by the way, was pissed off about this at-bat.
“At the time I couldn’t believe I let a 20 year old take me deep,” he wrote in the comments section of an Instagram post. “Little did we know he’d be one of the best. Was a great at bat!”
This was just one at-bat of nearly 10,000 in Miguel Cabrera’s incredible career. The truth is there are multiple at-bats that showed just how great Miggy really is. His epic showdown against Mariano Rivera to hit a game-tying home run is up there as well.
As Miggy passes 3,000 hits, never forget the one at-bat that made him a star.