July 15, 2020

Here We Go Again… Benders abound for the Bengals

February 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in the fall of 2009 Miguel Cabrera went on a bender the last weekend of the season and wound up in the drunk tank at the local jail here in Metro Detroit.  This story has already been told before and if you are interested in the details –just Google it.  The problem is that the story is back with an all new twist as Miguel Cabrera was arrested and charged with a DUI and resisting arrest late Wednesday night in Florida 2 days before he is scheduled to report for Spring Training.

In the aftermath of the first drinking episode back in 2009, I let my amateur writing style show and my emotions flow.  I jumped all over that story damning Miguel Cabrera and his baseball career for life and claiming that I would never be a fan of his again.  I swore up and down in my article that he was a nuisance to the Tigers and that he had brought shame to our “righteous Franchise”  that I was done with him and he was officially ousted from my little player favorites club (aka: “The Venezuelan Brethren”).  As days turned to weeks turned to months, Miguel came back to spring training 2010, spoke his apologies, showed off his leaner physique, talked to the media like he was a changed man and I forgave him.  In my little Tiger-lovin’ fan brain, all was right with the world. I was embarrassed that I had publicly ridiculed and lambasted the man because I jumped to conclusions, didn’t have my facts straight and wrote purely from emotions.  I’m going to play it a little safer this time than I did during his last go ’round.  That doesn’t mean that this situation doesn’t upset me but I learned from my past mistakes.

It’s hard for a fan to not jump to conclusions when all the headline stories and breaking news reports are swirling around you, filling up your inbox, twitter feed, Face book status and general Internet surfing.  It’s hard not to get mad and want to shout it out (I’m told that anger is healthy… hmmm….).  It’s hard not to pass judgments, express rage and throw the book at a player on your home team for stupid and unlawful behavior.  However, in this instance last night involving Miguel Cabrera, we fans need to sit back, take a breath and wait for all sides of the story to come to light before we get irrational.  Magazine and newspaper articles and twitter feeds are not always reliable.  Let’s wait till the whole story has been revealed from all sides and on all levels before drawing final conclusions and making irrational decisions and actions.

I’m not making excuses for the man.  What he did was wrong – very, very, very wrong.  He was wrong for drinking after his last episode.  He was wrong for allegedly driving drunk.  He was wrong for not being responsible enough for getting a driver.  He was wrong for putting undue stress on his team.  He was wrong for supposedly lying to his fan base by telling us that he “is a changed man” then gets busted again for the same thing.  However, at the time he made his “I’m a changed man” speech last spring; I believe he actually meant it.  This is a typical behavior of addicts.  And Miguel demonstrates all the characteristics of a man who has an addiction – admitted to or not.

I am no expert in addiction.  I was not raised in a home with alcoholic parents and I have never known the inside of a rehab facility personally.  But I do have some experience with very close friends who have towed the line and I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat to their behaviors, downfalls and missteps.  Addiction isn’t like a scab or the flu; it isn’t like a hangover or a broken bone.  Addiction is a lifelong disease that is never fully expelled.  Addicts display repetitive behaviors with no regard for recognizing that their actions come with repercussions and consequences.  Without medical intervention and assistance, these patterns repeat and repeat until the addict  hits bottom, hurts or kills  themselves or someone else.  Rehab teaches the skills and coping mechanisms the addict needs to resist temptations and urges.  It is in no way cure or fix to the addiction disease.  And relapse happens… more frequently than not.  Almost all addicts relapse at least once.  But rarely are they as public as Miguel Cabrera’s episode last night.

Money and fame is usually brought into the argument mix when stories like this surface from time to time.  You hear a lot of fans say things like “with all that money he should…..”  Or “That man makes $xxxx per year, you would think he could keep himself clean for that paycheck.”  Or the ever famous “If I was making as much as he is, I wouldn’t be doing that”.  The last statement strikes me odd – would you?  How do you know what you would do in this situation?  How do you know what your actions and reactions would be?  More money only equals more problems.  Just because a baseball player or any sports star or celebrity figure is born with a God given talent that nets them a large paycheck doesn’t mean that they don’t have pitfalls, vices and hidden demons.  More money in the celebrity bank just allots for more media attention and more limelight which in most cases fuels the addiction cycle.  Money isn’t the only issue or contingency in the addiction equation and fans need to stop leaning on that as a crutch when formulating an argument about a situation.

Another common battle cry amongst the Tigers fan base today was the supposed need to trade off Miguel Cabrera and his problems.  Wow… what a “we are family, group hug, we love our team” moment there.  This snap reaction shows ignorance.  If a player has a major headline mess-up moment (like Miguel has had here), that is not the time to trade them.  The whole idea of trading a player is to trade while trade value is at it’s highest to get the maximum out of the deal in return.  If a player is involved in a police issue or scandal, their stock is at it’s all time lowest so trading would make no sense.  In the instance of Miguel Cabrera there is a major multi-year money deal on the line.  He makes on average of $20 million a year.  There aren’t many teams that can shell out that amount of money or players to compensate that kind of investment. Not to mention the tag of “head case” or “damaged goods” that now has been applied to Miguel.  Teams don’t like to take on excess emotional and social baggage with a trade no matter the caliber the player.

If Miguel was a mediocre to sub par player, The Tigers cutting their losses after the 2nd major public offense would be the best option in the interest of the team.  However, a talent and player on the caliber of Miguel Cabrera is not just a player, he is an investment in the future of the franchise.  Miguel is arguably the best sports player in Detroit (yes, all 4 major sports teams included) it is in the best interest of the Tigers to work on correcting such a talent instead of cutting their losses and throwing him to the wind.

This is the time that Tiger fans will really get to see what their organization is all about.  Not the players on the field, not the recruiting scouts behind the scenes, not the man wiping the seats in the stands or the lady popping popcorn – this is the time that fans find out what really lies at the heart and soul of their team.  The next move by the Tigers brass will indicate what kind of management they are.   This is not a situation that can be written off and swept under the rug.  The Tigers need to impress upon Miguel that they will not tolerate these episodes happening any longer.  They need to reiterate to Miguel that they are willing to hold his place on the roster and his job is safe under the condition that the get into a treatment program.  Not a Charlie Sheen “recover at home in ten days” program, but an intense 90 day (or longer) in-facility therapy program with post patient followups.  No one can make the decision to enter rehab and treatment but Miguel, but the organization can make it very difficult on his life and career until he does.  The time to coddle is over, it is time for them to step up and be firm with their franchise player.  The worst thing the Tigers could do is let him skate and not do anything about this situation.  The second worse is to leave the decision solely up to him (as it is human nature to take the easiest way out).  This is a decision that needs to ultimately be made by him but needs to have the backing and strong urging of his friends, teammates, club management, and family.

The Tigers brass may need to alter their thought processes when it comes to club policies as well.  Perhaps it is time to ban alcohol outright in the clubhouse and team plane. Granted these changes would stem from the miss-steps of one player but they could ultimately be an advantage to all the other players on the team present and future.  Who knows, there may be other problems with addiction lying under the surface in other players that could benefit from the exclusion of alcohol in common areas.  I am not allowed to drink in the break room at my job…

For the now, the Tigers need to do what is best for Miguel.  He is the face and future of the franchise. In my opinion, it would be most beneficial to have him skip spring training and go away for intense rehab then come back to the team when he is ready.  Getting his head and health right now is far more beneficial than any home runs  he can hit in spring training.  Perhaps he needs an alcohol adviser or sponsor partner to be with him daily – what ever is needed to get his head straight and keep these relapses from happening again.  Miguel will also need constant support from his family and team as he goes through this situation.  The time for slip ups is over for him, it’s now or never to get it right and get it fixed.   The health of the next 5 years of the Tigers relies heavily on Miguel and his ability to control his addiction.

As for us fans, the best thing we can do is wait… wait to hear what the Tigers have to say about the situation in the coming days.  Wait to hear what the course of treatment will be for Miguel. Wait for Spring Training games to begin.  Wait to see the opening day lineup and accept that the face of your franchise is not going to be traded away for a bag of balls and a batting cage net because he is an addict and addicts relapse.  Go to a game and support your team – it’s the best thing you can do.

Sorry seems to be the hardest words, especially if someone has said it over and over and over for the same reason.  Sometimes sorry becomes more of an excuse or explanation than a true apology.  This is how the Tigers fans would see an apology from Miguel if we were to hear from him today.  We have heard it once before and don’t want to hear it again.  But eventually, the apologies will need to be made from the mouth of Miguel to the organization, his team mates, his fans, and to the media.  He will also have to wake up and realize that he has a problem that he can not fix on his own.  The man that Miguel lost the AL MVP award to in 2010 is a perfect example to follow.   Josh Hamilton epitomizes how things can go wrong, then right, slip off the tracks and then right the ship to the horizon.  Josh almost lost his career, his family and his life to drug addiction.  He went to rehab, cleaned it up and got his career back.  Then in 2009 he relapsed through some widely publicized photos… but he cleaned it back up and went on to win the AL MVP and take the Rangers to the clubs first ever world series.  Addiction can never be cured but it can be controlled and Miguel needs to get on that path now or watch his potential Hall of Fame career derail before it truly flourishes.

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