When Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with a runner on second and two outs in the third inning last night, we all knew he was going to get a hit and drive in the run. Maybe some were in denial, rationalizing that Colon had been money and would retire him. But deep down in our bones we all knew it. That’s just what Miguel does. Since he arrived in the AL for the 2008 season he has the second highest wOBA in the league, .405, just five points behind Kevin Youkilis. It seems like he’s that much better against the Yankees.
Even when Cabrera wasn’t killing the Yankees, he was still killing the Yankees. While he was just 5 for 24 in the 2003 World Series, his one extra base hit put the Yanks in a hole. They had everything set up. Up two games to one, they had Roger Clemens on the mound to set up the Marlins for defeat. But Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run homer that sent the Marlins to an early lead. While the Yanks did come back, they lost in extra innings, and didn’t win a game the rest of the series. While we all remember that game for Alex Gonzalez’s 11th inning homer, it might have been Cabrera’s that turned the series.
Because he played in the NL, Cabrera didn’t get many chances to wreak havoc on the Yankees from 2004 through 2007. The Yanks and Marlins did do battle in 2006, though, and in that series Cabrera went 5 for 10 with a double, a homer, and two walks. No one was sad to see he and the Marlins leave Yankee Stadium that June, but the possibility still hung out there. The Marlins, renown for their cheapness, would find Cabrera’s salary unpalatable at some point. There was a decent chance he would be AL bound.
In fact, there was something of a chance that he would be headed to the Yankees. After the 2007 season it became clear that the Marlins would deal Cabrera during the off-season. For the previous two seasons he had been the Marlins third baseman, and the Yankees suddenly had an opening at the position. Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his contract, and Brian Cashman had been on record saying that the Yankees would not re-sign their superstar. With Wilson Betemit as the only in-house option, the connection to Cabrera was immediate. But the Yankees had bigger problems — pitching problems — and probably weren’t going to meet the Marlins asking price. It’s doubtful that they could have matched Detroit’s package of Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, two of the top prospects in the game.
In the first two years of his Detroit tenure Cabrera caused the Yankees headaches. He went 15 for 46 with a triple, two homers, and three walks, good for a .326/.380/.500 line. Of course, Cabrera hit .308/.373/.542 during that span, so while he nicked a few more singles he didn’t unleash his full fury. That didn’t start until last year, when he went 10 for 27 with three doubles and five homers. That has continued into this year, when he’s gone 8 for 15 with a double and two homers. In his 49 PA against the Yankees during the last two seasons, his total line is .429/.490/1.024. A Yankee killer he has been.
Thankfully, the rest of the Detroit team has taken mercy on the Yankees in the past two years. Without Cabrera they’ve hit .233/.279/.369 in 391 PA against the Yankees. But every time Miguel steps to the plate, it induces fear in my heart. I know that even if he’s not going to get a hit, he’s going to hit it hard somewhere. That fits the bill for a Yankee killer. Welcome to the club, Miguel.