DETROIT -- No matter where Miguel Cabrera goes, around the diamond or around the league, his bat eventually earns him a Silver Slugger Award. This one took him a few years.
While Cabrera broke through with his first American League Silver Slugger Award on Thursday, he also made a bit of history, becoming just the second player named a Silver Slugger at three different defensive positions.
Cabrera hopes for some recognition in AL MVP balloting when the results are released later this month, but in the interim, he beat out a talented field for Silver Slugger honors at first base, including fellow MVP candidate Paul Konerko of the White Sox. He can put this honor along his Silver Sluggers from his days with the Florida Marlins; he won one at third base in 2006 and one as an outfielder a year earlier.
Albert Pujols, a six-time Silver Slugger winner, has won at those same three spots, all in the National League with the St. Louis Cardinals. And like Pujols, Cabrera's intentional-walk totals reflect the fear he puts into opponents.
"I think he probably gets more respect from an offensive standpoint than any hitter in the league," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he's been the best player in the league this year."
Like Cabrera, Konerko was a big part of his team's offense and played a major part in Chicago's summer surge. He actually topped Cabrera in homers, 39 to 38, but Konerko couldn't match Cabrera's other pertinent numbers.
AL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
|C||Joe Mauer, Twins||4|
|1B||Miguel Cabrera, Tigers||3|
|2B||Robinson Cano, Yankees||2|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, Red Sox||2|
|SS||Alexei Ramirez, White Sox||1|
|OF||Jose Bautista, Blue Jays||1|
|OF||Carl Crawford, Rays||1|
|OF||Josh Hamilton, Rangers||2|
|DH||Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers||8|
Much of Cabrera's output in 2010 resulted from improved concentration -- his refusal to give away at-bats. Part of it, too, might be the results of happiness in his life, a realization of how to deal with pressure following changes in his life last winter.
"I told him I'm very proud of the way he handled it. He should be very proud of the way he handled the situation," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last month. "He's done a lot to help himself personally. He's put a lot of effort into it. He looked like a changed person this year -- I'm not talking about his ability, just his overall attitudes. There was a lot of effort put into that, and it wasn't easy. And I know it's something he'll continue to work on, but he should be proud of himself."
Cabrera and the Tigers will find out about his adding the AL MVP Award to his hardware collection when the results are announced Nov. 23. The pool of competitors for that honor expands to include slugging outfielders Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista as well as Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano -- all Silver Slugger Award winners.
"Do I think he's the MVP? Yes," Leyland said last month. "I'm not going to try to talk anybody into anything, because that's not my job."
At least at first base, though, Cabrera is at the top of his class. He now has his first Silver Slugger at first base, but it's hard to see it as his last.
"I'm glad he's on our side," Dombrowski said. "He's got a real bright future, and he wants to succeed and be the best player he can be. He loves to play. He wants to do what he can to be successful. He's willing to pay the price. And as good as his numbers are, he's not happy, because he wants to win a world championship. It's kind of a rare combination to have. And he's going into the prime of his career."