Home > Uncategorized > At This Time, Baseball Shouldn’t Matter Much To Miguel Cabrera

At This Time, Baseball Shouldn’t Matter Much To Miguel Cabrera

That's a really happy drunk and an unhappy person

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera experienced the most statistically successful season of his career in 2010. He surpassed his previous bests in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He led all of baseball in RBIs, OPS+ and offensive WAR.

He made $20 million and, as a husband and father of two, seemed to smooth over all of the domestic difficulties that came to light when the police were called to his residence in October 2009.

But everything is obviously not rosy in Cabrera’s life.

Earlier this week, I joked about a certain phrase often used by inebriated athletes and celebrities in the face of legal authority. But when Cabrera used “DYKWIA?” while being arrested Wednesday for DUI and resisting arrest without violence, he added an ominous follower.

“Do you know who I am? You don’t know anything about my problems.”

Miguel Cabrera is a rich, famous, talented, praised athlete and a family man. But he’s got a huge substance-abuse problem and needs help in dealing with his vice again.

A 28-day program, another 90-day program or more, something has to be done. Cabrera is expected to show up to Tigers spring training Saturday, but baseball shouldn’t be his first priority right now. He needs addiction rehab and psychological therapy and yes, he needs it now. Being without Cabrera would obliterate the Tigers’ hopes of a triumphant season, but this situation has to transcend wins and losses. The organization needs to look at Cabrera less like an asset, a ticket-selling, offensive powerhouse and more like a human being who is in a bad way.

Of course, as much as I talk about what the Tigers’ organization has to do, the team can only help to a certain point; Cabrera first needs to realize what he is and then openly accept the help.

Last March, after completing a three-month rehab stint, he said, “You guys write in the paper ‘alcoholic,’ that’s not right. I don’t know how to explain, but it’s not an alcohol problem.”

Refusing to recognize a drinking problem is how a lot of alcoholics view their habit. But Cabrera is more than just a social drinker who has had one too many. It’s become clear through multiple reports that Cabrera drinks to get drunk and then keeps drinking. He may not do it every day, but that’s a symptom of an alcohol addiction. That’s an alcoholic. Cabrera needs to fully comprehend that title before moving forward with his life on the field. Just hanging out with the guys and getting back to baseball won’t solve anything.

Remember that Cabrera’s blood-alcohol level after that 2009 incident was reported to be 0.26, more than three times the legal limit. Cabrera played a full nine innings less than a day later. I think that cemented a dangerous thought in his mind:  I can control this.

He can’t. Even worse, he can’t and he’s in denial about it.

A lot of fans will feel tremendous anger toward Cabrera after Wednesday’s arrest and how he acted in the process. According to the arrest affidavit, Cabrera was “cocky,” “combative,” “argumentative” and “belligerent.” They will wonder how he could be so stupid, so selfish, so arrogant. But as we’ve seen with Rick James, you aren’t who you are when you’re wasted. I figure every person has at least one relative or close friend with a drug addiction. I have plenty of experience in dealing with family members who have harmful addictions. When they relapse, as Cabrera has, it’s frustrating, disappointing, exhausting and so on. But that attitude and nastiness isn’t the real person inside.

it’s tough to watch a drug addict continue their descent because no matter how much you want to make them stop, make them realize how much they are destroying themselves, all that boils down to is chatter toward deaf ears. I thought I could solely make one specific member of my family quit drinking, but that didn’t happen. That person cleaned up on their own five years ago, but it wasn’t until then that I truly understood I couldn’t stop an addict; they had to take the initiative if they really wanted to improve their quality of life.

That responsibility now rests on Cabrera. His wife, his children, his friends, his teammates, his employer, none of them can make him do what he doesn’t want to. They can push him to the edge, but he has to take the plunge and embrace the steps toward sobriety — go through counseling, meetings, therapy sessions and stay committed to the plan to fight his addiction.

Yet, there’s a very real possibility that may never happen. My worst fear for Cabrera is that he turns rehab into a turnstile. He always says the right things in the moments after shaming himself — as he will when he issues an apology soon — but he continues to say he isn’t an alcoholic and doesn’t have a problem. If that happens, this won’t be the final time alcohol or the letters DUI are strung together to describe one of the greatest hitters of this period. Then, Cabrera’s post-career life could sadly end up mimicking Dwight Gooden’s.

If you talk to any recovering addict, they will tell you the word “recovering” is a misnomer; the recovery part never ends. The fight against addiction is an every-day process. Cabrera doesn’t get that yet and that’s why the Detroit Tigers and everyone close to Cabrera need to assist him in taking action with his long-term interests in mind. If he has to miss baseball games to get that done, that will hurt the 2011 Tigers on the field, but it will be for the best in Cabrera’s life. That’s much more important right now.

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  1. Padrick
    February 22, 2011 at 2:53 am

    I am not going to pretend to be an expert on addiction, but I have had to listen to quite a few people who have gone through treatment — and some who havent — and the general consensus I got was that rehab/treatment is strictly the beginning.

    You don’t become “fixed” just because you spent 30 or 90 or 120 days working with someone on your problems. That just doesn’t really fix everything.

    Craig Ferguson says it best, as always: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bbaRyDLMvA

  2. February 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

    No addict is ever “fixed” and rehab is just the beginning. But it is the beginning. However, it’s value is only as much as the addict’s desire to clean up.

    Craig Ferguson’s ability to be serious is always undercut by that accent. Forget Tiger Woods, the real reason to watch golf is just to listen to David Ferhety.

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