Sunday, 29 August 2010

Walking (Off) In a Cabrera Wonderland

As I didn't have the chance to watch the Arsenal game live yesterday (a 2-1 away win for the mighty Gunners) I am going to forgo writing a match report about the match. Instead, today I am going to write a little piece about one of my favourite athletes in recent memory, the one and only Asdrubal Cabrera. And it seems an appropriate time to do so, considering his momentous feat last night; but we'll get to that in a bit.

Cabrera hails from Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela, and is quite possibly the only athlete I really know to hail from the country. The young shortstop was acquired by the Tribe in 2006 from the Seattle Mariners, and eventually made his Indians debut on the 8th of August 2007 against the Chicago White Sox. Despite being a natural shortstop, he made his big league splash at second base in the 2007 season and performed admirably, helping the Indians to a 96-66 record, the best in baseball that year (joint with the Red Sox). He became particularly adept at hitting in the later innings, batting .375 after the 7th inning and beyond. He started the 2008 season at second base again, as Jhonny Peralta still held onto the position at short.

It was on May 12th that Cabrera grabbed the attention of the national media. Facing the Blue Jays at Progressive Field, Asdrubal turned the 14th unassisted triple play in MLB history. The unassisted triple play is probably the rarest defensive play in all of baseball, so it was quite an achievement for our boy. This guy went to visit Asdrubal a few weeks after the event, and you can see the details of what occurred in the video.

Despite his historic play, unfortunately our hero struggled to maintain his 2007 form and was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo mid-way through the season, as his performances at the plate were not up to scratch, batting just .184 with 14 RBIs after 52 games. However he didn't let the demotion get him down and battled back to the majors in July and went on to play in 114 games for the Indians that year, batting a respectable .259 after his early struggles. Cabrera maintained his consistency throughout the 2009 season as well, managing to play in 131 games as well as leading the club with a .308 batting average that year. Not only did Cabrera find his swing at the plate, but he also established himself as one of the top defensive players in the league. After Casey Blake was traded in 2008, Peralta vacated his position at shortstop to fill in at third base, enabling Asdrubal to finally play in his natural position every day, where he's quickly become one of the best shortstops in the majors.

For 2010, new Indians skipper Manny Acta promoted Cabrera to the leadoff position in an attempt to make the most of Asdrubal's ability to get on base and set the table for Sizemore, Choo and Hafner to knock him in. In typical Tribe fashion, injuries have hindered Acta's plans to become reality, and Cabrera became one of the many casualties as well. In a series against the Rays, Asdrubal collided with Peralta when both men attempted to field a groundball by Hank Blalock. Cabrera was forced to leave the game with a fractured left forearm, and was immediately placed on the disabled list, and has missed a big chunk of this rather miserable season as a result.

However, my favourite player has returned from injury and is slowly finding his form again, as he regains the strength in that left arm. And there is no better example to highlight Cabrera's return than last night. Asdrubal hit his first career walk-off home run against the Royals yesterday, capping a 4-3 win for the Indians through 10 innings. It was a beautiful shot over the right field wall, and you could see Cabrera knew it was gone the moment he hit it. He's not known for his home runs, in fact they are a pretty rare sight for the 24 year old, but you have to love it when your guy hits a beauty like he did last night.

I've been a fan of Cabrera for a couple of years now (or "As-Cab" as I like to call him sometimes - lame, I know). His slick defensive skills are exceptional, he comes up with some real gems, regularly robbing batters of singles through the infield with his diving stops and quick reflexes to get the ball to first. Cabrera is my kind of player, a grinder, and I'm all about the defense so it's natural he's become my favourite Indian in such a short time. Here's hoping he enjoys more individual success in what's become another lost season for the Tribe. Asdrubal is undoubtedly one of the centre-pieces of this Cleveland team, along with Choo and Grady et al, and I'm hoping he can remain a member of the Tribe for a long, long time. I'll be rooting for him anyway, whatever happens.

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment