Miggy Not Best Yet, but in Conversation

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - It was only fitting that the great debate started again on Sunday.

After all, Tigers' third baseman Miguel Cabrera followed up his game-winning homer on Saturday night with a two-run, first-inning homer against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.

Cabrera had two homers on two straight pitches (a night's sleep in between), giving him 40 on the season.

Immediately, there was buzz on social media by fans that Cabrera is the best right-handed hitter in baseball history.


Slow down.

Hold the phone.

No wonder Cabrera wouldn't even entertain the question about him being the greatest.  "I'm here to play baseball and win games," he said. "That's all I worry about."

For most though, this is the ultimate prisoner of the moment scenario. It's happening now, in front of your eyes. Hence, fans want to believe that Miggy has to be the best.

As great as Cabrera has been the last two years -- winning the Triple Crown last season and in the hunt for another one this season -- he's just not there yet.

It's not to say that he's not in the conversation, because he absolutely is.

But when you line Cabrera up with the other greats of the game and compare stats, it's hard to put him at the top of the list.

After all, these right-handed hitters were pretty awesome in their prime as well: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.

Tigers' manager Jim Leyland said it's the too hard to compare.  "The only thing I would say because I would never disrespect people like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, I do think it's harder to hit today because of specialization in the bullpen.

"But I would never get in one of those comparison things. You make yourself look like a fool when you start talking about that."

No doubt, especially if you want to push aside Aaron and Mays. It's impossible for real baseball fans. After all, Aaron played 23 seasons and nearly averaged 100 RBI a season (2297 RBI total). Plus, if you took away Aaron's 755 HRs from his all-time hits total, he'd still have over 3,000 hits.

Mays collected over 3,200 hits and hit 660 homers.

But you don't even need to go the far back to find a player that not only rival's Cabrera, but beats him in the numbers game. It's Pujols.

The last two disappointing years with LA Angels have made many fans forget how incredible Pujols' career has been.

Numbers don't lie.

In the same amount of games for both, the  first 1,628 of their careers, Pujols wins all four important categories -- batting average (.329), HRs (424), RBI (1,273) and OPS (1,041).

Cabrera's batting average is .321, with 361 HRs, 1,243 RBI and a .969 OPS.

So, as much damage as Cabrera is doing the last two seasons, it isn't unchartered water or something we haven't seen ever in baseball.

Yes, his Triple Crown in 2012 was the first in baseball since 1967. For sure, Cabrera breaking a 45-year drought got people more aware of his talent in Baseball America.

The last two years, though, are enough for Max Scherzer, who won his 18th game on Sunday. "Obviously, their careers (Aaron and Mays) are more prestigious," he said. "But if you're talking about in their prime, their peak years, this is the single greatest run we're seeing. Hands down."

Opponents can't deny what Cabrera, who is batting .360 with 40 HRs and 120 RBI, has done this season.

"He's the best hitter in all of baseball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "There are guys more athletic, younger, faster.

"He can hit with power. He hits in the clutch. He hits consistently. He's the best."

The most impressive thing Cabrera has done was hit two homers off Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, in two at-bats in the ninth inning recently in New York. The first, a two-run shot with two outs, on Friday night, tied the game. The second on Sunday, a solo shot, started a two-run rally to tie that game as well.

Still, this greatest-ever debate won't be settled until all these great players stats are final and people can really compare.

"If you don't have him in the conversation, something's wrong with you or you didn't play baseball," Torii Hunter said. "You can look at his stats right now.

"If he keeps this up for the next couple of years, he's going to be the best right-handed hitter ever."

We'll see.

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