Where Miguel Cabrera’s Career Ranks Among Detroit’s Greatest Pro Athletes

Written By Drew Ellis on September 29, 2023
Miguel Cabrera

This weekend marks the end of a career for one of baseball’s greatest hitters.

Miguel Cabrera will be playing the final games of his Major League Baseball career over the next four days in Detroit.

A career that spans 21 seasons, 16 of which were with the Tigers, Cabrera has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in the sport.

Along with being one of the best in baseball history, Cabrera certainly shares a stage among the elite in Detroit pro sports history.

But, just where does he stack up with the all-time greats in Detroit sports history?

Miguel Cabrera’s MLB career

It’s hard to see just how great someone has been over a career until you can actually see the numbers up close.

Cabrera’s career MLB statistics

Cabrera will arguably go down as one of the 10 greatest hitters in the history of baseball when he calls it a career on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Guardians.

As of Friday morning, here’s where Cabrera stands in the history books for marquee statistics.

  • Hits: 3,170 (17th All-Time)
  • RBI: 1,880 (13th All-Time)
  • Home Runs: 511 (25th All-Time)
  • Doubles: 624 (13th All-Time)

Not to mention, Cabrera will also finish with a career batting average over .300.

Cabrera’s career accomplishments

Cabrera is just one of three in MLB history, joining legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, to record 500 home runs, 3,000 hits and bat over .300 for their careers.

Let’s also not forget that in 2012, Miguel Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in either the American League or National League since 1967. That season, Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI.

If all that’s not enough to make him one of the all-time greats, here’s his career accomplishments:

  • 2003 World Series Champion (Florida Marlins)
  • 2012 American League Champion
  • 2-time American League MVP (2012, 2013)
  • 4-time AL Batting Champion (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
  • 2-time AL Home Run Leader (2008, 2012)
  • 2-time AL RBI Leader (2010, 2012)
  • 7-time Silver Slugger winner
  • 12-time All-Star selection

Cabrera’s stats and accomplishments hold up against almost anyone that ever played Major League Baseball.

Cabrera and Detroit’s greatest pro-athletes in history

To figure out where Miguel Cabrera belongs in the annals of Detroit pro sports legends, we need to recap some of the other greats.

Detroit Tigers

Let’s start with the Old English D.

Only one player to wear the Tiger uniform had more career hits. That was Ty Cobb, who is second all-time in MLB history with 4,189 hits.

Only Al Kaline sits ahead of Cabrera in home runs as a Tiger (399 to 374).

Detroit certainly loves Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, but even those two can’t compare to Cabrera in numbers. Trammell finished with 2,365 hits, 185 home runs and 1,003 RBI. Whitaker had 2,369 hits with 244 home runs and 1,084 RBI. Kaline, Trammell and Whitaker do have a nod over Cabrera locally, as each did win a World Series with the Tigers.

More recently, Justin Verlander may get some consideration against Cabrera. JV appeared in two World Series for Detroit and won the AL MVP in 2011 after winning the Pitching Triple Crown (Wins, Strikeouts, ERA) that year with the Tigers.

Detroit Lions

Barry Sanders (John Swart / AP Photo)

The Lions certainly don’t have a rich history of success over franchise history.

Still, the Lions do have may all-time greats, some of which may be the most beloved in the city.

You can’t start talking about Lions history without mentioning Barry Sanders, arguably the greatest running back in NFL history. Though Sanders never won a Super Bowl, he was NFL MVP in 1997 and a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Sanders ended his career prematurely with 15,269 rushing yards, well on pace to set the career rushing record. He still is fourth all-time in NFL history with just 10 seasons to his credit. Emmitt Smith holds the record at 18,355 with 15 seasons played.

Calvin Johnson is another once-in-a-generation player that was a Lion. The 6’5” receiver caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns over nine seasons before retiring. His 1,964 yards in 2012 still stands as the NFL single-season record.

One Lion that actually did win a championship was Bobby Layne. In fact, he brought home three titles as quarterback of the Lions in 1952, 1953 and 1957. Coming from an older generation, Layne’s history has been somewhat lost over time. Plus, the whole “Curse of Bobby Layne” thing doesn’t help.

Detroit Red Wings

Hockeytown is Detroit for a reason.

The Red Wings have had a lot of success for spans of time as a franchise.

Most would agree that the three most legendary Red Wings are Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Howe played an incredible 25 seasons with the Red Wings from 1946-1971. He was a five-time NHL goal scoring leader and six-time Art Ross Trophy winner during his Wings’ career. Howe led Detroit to four Stanley Cup championships. His 801 career goals still ranks third in NHL history, while his 1,850 points ranks fourth.

Yzerman brought Detroit back to the Stanley Cup after more than 40 years without it. “The Captain” won the Cup three times with the Wings and now serves as the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the team. In NHL history, Yzerman ranks 10th in goals (692), ninth in assists (1,063) and seventh in points (1,755). All 22 of Yzerman’s years (1983-2006) on the ice were with Detroit.

Lidstrom was another lifetime Red Wing, playing 19 seasons from 1991-2012. Along with the three Stanley Cups won with Yzerman, Lidstrom was the captain for the 2008 Stanley Cup, the last won by any Detroit pro sports franchise. The defenseman was a seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman. He had 264 goals, 878 assists and 1,142 points in his NHL career.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have had two memorable stretches in franchise history.

The first came with the Bad Boys, who won the NBA Championship in 1989 and 1990.

Isiah Thomas was the unquestioned leader of the Bad Boys. He played for the Pistons from 1981-94 and was Finals MVP in 1990 while being named a 12-time NBA All-Star. Thomas average 19.2 points, 9.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game over his career. He’s 10th all-time in NBA history with 9,061 career assists.

Michael Jordan, left, and Isiah Thomas. (Fred Jewell / AP Photo)

Joe Dumars was also a big piece of the Pistons’ championship runs in 1989 and 1990. He was the NBA Finals MVP and ended up playing from 1985-99 with Detroit. He averaged 16.1 points and 4.5 assists per game in his career while knocking down 990 3-pointers. Aiding to his lure was he was President of Basketball Operations during the Pistons 2004 championship run.

In the 2004 run, it was truly the entire starting five of Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince that were embraced by the city as one entity.

Of the five, Ben Wallace was most embraced by the city. He was a Piston from 2000-06, winning Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA four times with Detroit. Not a real offensive force, Wallace had 10,482 rebounds and 2,137 blocks and 1,369 steals in his career.

My Detroit pro sports athletes top-10

This is certainly a debate that Michign could have forever. There’s more than 10 that could be in the discussion, and your personal bond to a given sport likely impacts where you rank particular athletes.

So, I will take on the criticism and give you my personal top-10.

1. Barry Sanders: Even without a championship to his credit, Barry Sanders to me is still the greatest running back in NFL history. Maybe even the greatest player. His style can’t be recreated and provided the Lions with a decade of memorable moments in an unforgettable franchise history. There still may not be a jersey worn more often of a retired player in any city than Barry’s jersey in Detroit.

2. Steve Yzerman: A career Red-Wing, Yzerman brought hockey greatness back to Detroit. Yzerman raising the Stanley Cup in 1997 is a moment etched in time. Detroit pro sports fans were hungry for success and Yzerman helped bring Hockeytown to life.

Steve Yzerman (Tom Pidgeon / AP Photo)

3. Gordie Howe: This is a tough one as Howe’s time in hockey looks far different from the modern game. Still, there’s no denying he’s one of the legends of the sport and Detroit. His smile and passion for Detroit never wavered throughout his historic career.

4. Nicklas Lidstrom: Lidstrom was as business-like as it came to his play on the ice. One of the greatest defensemen in NHL history, he locked up his status as an all-time Detroit legend by winning a fourth Stanley Cup, and doing it as the captain that replaced Yzerman.

5. Isiah Thomas: The leader of the Bad Boys, Thomas played with the grit and determination that represented Detroit. Bringing the Pistons their first two championships, you can’t ignore his place as one of the city’s greats.

Cabrera tops next 5

6. Miguel Cabrera: In my opinion, he’s the greatest Detroit Tiger in history. To be on a list with just Hank Aaron and Willie Mays makes you pretty special. Though he never won a World Series in Detroit, his Triple Crown season will never be forgotten.

7. Al Kaline: Until Cabrera came around, Kaline was always the measuring stick for Tigers’ greatness. A tremendous hitter that went on to be the voice of the Tigers alongside Ernie Harwell, Kaline was truly one of Detroit’s finest.

8. Ben Wallace: Wallace and Detroit were a match made in heaven. His commitment to defense and hard work, along with his signature afro look, gave this city the hero they needed that nobody else wanted. A true tale of an underdog, Wallace has to be one of the city’s most popular legends.

9. Calvin Johnson: Like Sanders, Johnson was saddled with inept leadership in Detroit and his elite skills weren’t capitalized on. Johnson made the most impossible catches look routine. He was always considered “open” even if he was facing triple coverage. The combination of size, speed and athleticism hasn’t been reproduced at the position in this city.

10. Bobby Layne: It’s hard to ignore that Layne actually succeeded as quarterback of the Detroit Lions. Before the Super Bowl existed, Layne worked magic in Detroit. Little did anyone know at the time just how special a football championship would be in the city. His curse of the Lions certainly doesn’t help his standing in the city, but you can’t ignore his success.

Photo by Jose Juarez / AP Photo
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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