When Miguel Cabrera was arrested on drunken driving charges on February 17th, he perhaps officially hit the low-point of his alcoholism. The incident caused many people, the media and the public a like, to question Cabrera's commitment to the game of baseball, his teammates and himself.
This isn't the first time Cabrera has had a problem with alcohol abuse becoming public. Toward the end of the 2009 season, Cabrera registered a 0.26 blood alcohol content after police responded to a 911 call from his home. The 6 A.M. call came in the midst of a crucial series against the White Sox, while the Tigers were battling the Twins for the Central Division title.
The Tigers lost two-of-three to the White Sox and then lost a one-game playoff to the Twins. Cabrera didn't have a hit in the White Sox series, but went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI in the one game playoff in Minnesota.
Though it will be tough to shake his reputation, Cabrera now enters 2011 spring training with a chance to turn things around.
When asked about the situation, Tigers' manager Jim Leyland refused to fuel the fire, instead offering his optimism for Cabrera's 2011 season.
“I know for a fact, without getting into this situation, I know for a fact Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life. He’s stronger than he’s ever been, and he’s quicker than he’s ever been. ... I think Miguel Cabrera is probably going to have the biggest year of his life.”
Source: Detroit Free Press
Cabrera has apologized to his teammates and coaches and has agreed to undergo treatment for his alcohol abuse. Some might see this situation as a distraction or as a sign that Cabrera simply cannot remain focused enough to reach his true potential -- which would be incredible, considering how good he already is. However, I see this as a positive for Cabrera in more ways than one.
Despite battling alcohol addiction on-and-off for years -- he was in rehab during the 2009 offseason as well -- Cabrera still managed to put together a fantastic 2010 season, posting a 6.2 fWAR, coming within 0.002 points of tying for the highest OPS in baseball and finishing second to Josh Hamilton in the AL MVP voting.
If Cabrera did all that while spending the occasional late night out on the town, imagine what he can do without the distractions and sleep deprivation.
This time around, Cabrera will not only be in treatment, but that treatment will be administered while under the watch of the Commissioner's Office and the MLBPA.
"...the Treatment Board has recommended a multifaceted, professionally-administered program for Mr. Cabrera, which will include supervision as is necessary to ensure that he adheres to his program. Mr. Cabrera understands the importance of this program and is fully committed to the program. He also understands that any future alcohol-related incidents could involve more serious consequences."
This time, much more is at stake. If he falters, he faces a possible suspension, which would be far more detrimental to the team than a late night out on the town.
Even more detrimental is what alcohol could have done to Cabrera's own life or the life of someone else. Nick Adenhart, a fellow major leaguer, lost his life at the hands of a drunk driver. Cabrera is lucky to have avoided such an incident.
Based on what is being reported, when Cabrera drinks, he is not in a good place mentally. Getting rid of the depression that surfaces with alcohol can only be a positive.
If Cabrera does indeed cooperate with his treatment program, there is a good chance he has another outstanding season on the baseball field, if not the best one of his career.
At 28 years old, Miguel Cabrera should be in the prime of his career. If his mental game follows him into that prime, we could be looking at the clear cut AL MVP.