Miguel Cabrera has officially entered one of MLB's most exclusive clubs.
The Detroit Tigers first baseman recorded the 3,000th hit of his career on Saturday at Detroit's Comerica Park, making him the 33rd player in MLB history to reach a milestone widely considered to be an automatic ticket to Cooperstown.
Cabrera picked up the milestone hit in his first at-bat of the game. On the third pitch of Cabrera's at-bat against Colorado Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela, Cabrera sent a single through the right side of the infield for his 3,000th hit.
— MLB (@MLB) April 23, 2022
Cabrera entered the 2022 season needing only 13 hits to reach 3,000, making it a simple matter of "when." Only two other players have registered their 3,000th hit in a Tigers uniform and they're both Detroit legends: Ty Cobb and Al Kaline. He is also the first Venezuelan player to enter the club.
Cabrera also entered the 500-homer club last August, making him only the seventh player in MLB history to enter both clubs. The other six: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
All of this adds up to a very easy Hall of Fame case for a player who spent years as one of the big leagues' most feared sluggers.
Miguel Cabrera has a slam-dunk Hall of Fame case
Cabrera's MLB career goes all the way back to 2003, when he was a 20-year-old rookie thrust into the Florida Marlins' World Series run. Cabrera signed with the Marlins as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 1999 and quickly established himself as a top prospect.
Scouting reports at the time don't hail Cabrera as a defensive standout in the infield or a speedster on the bases, but they loved his ability to make contact, his bat speed and his work ethic. All of that would turn out to be prescient, starting with a rookie season that saw him produce at an above-average clip as one of the majors' youngest players and deliver some big hits in the 2003 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Cabrera would only get better from there, notching back-to-back Silver Sluggers at third base in the third and fourth years of his career while becoming a perennial MVP candidate. His Florida career came to an end in 2007, when the ever-belt-tightening Marlins traded him to the Tigers for a bounty of prospects, none of whom would come close to matching the slugger's success on the diamond.
Cabrera found even more success in Detroit, notching five Silver Sluggers, four batting titles, two MVP awards and the Triple Crown in 2012. From 2008 to 2016, he hit .330/.412/.578 with 34 homers and 113 RBIs per season. He never got a ring in Detroit, unlike Florida, but he figures to enter Cooperstown in a Tigers hat.
Now playing at 39 years old, Cabrera's skills have taken a bit of a step back. It has been six years since he hit .300 in a season and he only hit .256/.316/.386 with 15 homers in 130 games last season. His value to the Tigers now lies more in the mentorship role, as the team tries to ride its new wave of youth back to contention.
Whether Cabrera, who has one more guaranteed season left on his contract, is around for that potential success remains to be seen, but he doesn't have much left to prove. The only players in the 3,000-hit club who are not in the Hall of Fame are either not currently eligible (e.g. Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre) or marred by scandal (Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro).