Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/19/11
In March, I suggested in this space that Miguel Cabrera would have his worst season as a Tiger. "I remember," Dave Dombrowski told me a few days ago. Dombrowski, the Tigers' president and general manager, was standing in a Milwaukee hotel at baseball's executive meetings when I reminded him of my mid-spring prediction. He smiled. You see, Miguel Cabrera did not have his worst season as a Tiger in 2011. He was magnificent. Cabrera won the American League batting title. He led Detroit to a division championship and past the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. He posted his eighth consecutive 100-RBI season, pushing his career total beyond where Albert Pujols was at the same age (28). On Monday, Cabrera will finish among the top 10 in AL MVP balloting maybe the top five. There were credible reasons why I harbored so many doubts about Cabrera's 2011 season: His arrest on suspicion of drunk driving the second highly publicized alcohol incident of his career had happened less than a month before. He appeared sluggish on the field. His spring batting average was down. I thought the pressure and scrutiny would ruin his year. Maybe I underestimated Cabrera's ability to adhere to the "multifaceted, professionally administered program" established by Major League Baseball and the players union to treat his alcohol addiction. Maybe I underestimated the potential of a more disciplined Cabrera. Maybe I underestimated the resolve he would show following the public embarrassment. The point is that I underestimated the man, and I'm glad he proved me wrong. Can I certify that Cabrera hasn't had a drop of alcohol since his Feb. 16 arrest in St. Lucie County, Fla.? Of course not. Cabrera alone knows that answer, and he hasn't granted interviews on off-the-field subjects since the incident nine months ago. Here's what I can tell you: Dombrowski remarked on multiple occasions how impressed he was with Cabrera's level of commitment to the program. "It's got so many checks and balances, so many people involved it's a great program," the GM said. "His representatives are committed to making it work. They knew. He knew. His family knew." Cabrera's treatment plan stipulated that "any future alcohol-related incidents could involve more serious consequences." Cabrera isn't known to have violated that clause. Dombrowski said Raul Gonzalez, the former major league outfielder who served as Cabrera's sober companion, will return next year in the same role. "I think he helped him a lot," Dombrowski said of Gonzalez. "(Cabrera) didn't know him beforehand. They probably had some ups and downs, because any time you don't know somebody and they're with you all the time, it's only human nature. But I think he did a great job." Cabrera was serene off the field and menacing on it this year, enjoying the camaraderie of an easygoing clubhouse while mashing his way to the best OPS of his career. He showed patience and confidence at the plate, finishing with the best walk and strikeout rates of his career. When he needed a huge September to clinch the batting title, Cabrera hit .429. "I think he made up his mind, he was going to win the batting title," manager Jim Leyland said. "And he won it." Cabrera could have been affected by the October expectations or the still-unresolved charges in Florida. But he rampaged in the right way, racking up a 1.606 OPS beneath the searing spotlight of the ALCS; Texas pitchers were so leery of him that he walked seven times in six games. Moments after Detroit's season ended with a 15-5 beating in Game 6, Cabrera could stand before the media and say: "It was a good run, man . . . It was fun this year." Asked how his superstar first baseman did it all, Dombrowski shrugged and answered simply. "Because he's a great player and I mean a great player," Dombrowski said. "He took care of himself, as we all saw. "A lot of great players (in the past) had off-field issues (and still) had great years. You can do that. Then you start saying, 'He's not having off-field issues, and they've got that same ability,' and you pretty much figure they're going to have a good year." Cabrera has baseball's highest combined OPS over the past two seasons. If there is room for improvement there, it will take his preternatural hitting talent to discover it. The biggest issue with Cabrera's performance falls under the heading of defense and conditioning. Cabrera is a very large man, listed at 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds in this year's media guide. To the naked eye, he looked heavier than that by season's end. One member of the organization told me late in the season that Cabrera could still be an everyday third baseman if he dropped 20 pounds. That's an intriguing concept, because it would allow the Tigers to work another big bat into the lineup by moving designated hitter Victor Martinez to first base. But Dombrowski said the team hasn't discussed that as a possibility for 2012. "We're not looking at him being our regular third baseman," Dombrowski said. "But when we play NL games, could we think about it? It is a possibility (under NL rules), but we haven't had that discussion." Asked if the team has adjusted Cabrera's offseason conditioning program, Dombrowski said, "We have some things. I wouldn't get into (the specifics). But he's committed to coming back in great shape." Even now, the off-the-field concerns haven't disappeared. Cabrera's trial in Florida is scheduled to begin Nov. 30. He faces charges of driving under the influence, resisting an officer without violence and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. In the courtroom of Judge Cliff Barnes, Cabrera won't be the All-Star who redeemed himself with a standout season. He will be a defendant. Regardless of the verdict, it is expected that he will report to Lakeland, Fla., for spring training three months from now. Once again, he will have two responsibilities: demolish baseballs and stay sober. For Cabrera, one job has always been easier than the other. But in 2011, he earned the benefit of the doubt that he can handle both.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Why Rickie Fowler will win the PGA Championship

Warren Sapp bitten on arm by shark

Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test

Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Data shows NFL-backed youth program that claimed reduced concussions is bogus

Report: Odom’s family working hard to get him to go to rehab

Drug dealers adding Olympic rings to cocaine wrappers in Rio

Poll: Las Vegas residents don’t support public funds for NFL stadium

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

Robbie Keane rescued on highway after running out of gas

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Tigers play high stakes game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Tavares dismisses rumors, wants to stay with Islanders

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker