DEYOUNG: Impossible to put a price tag on Cabrera's greatness

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:11 PM

Baseball experts across America are slamming the Detroit Tigers after owner Mike Illich agreed to shell out nearly $300 million over the next 10 years to slugger Miguel Cabrera.

Their points are, for the most part, valid.

Look at Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, they say. Both big-time hitters signed long-term mega contracts over the past decade, and both have been huge disappointments.

And even if Cabrera can buck that trend and continue to produce over the next several seasons, there's just no way he can remain a terror to American League pitchers for the next 10 years, can he?

When the deal reaches its end, they'll be paying around $30 million a year for a 40-year-old slugger who, presumably, will be well past his prime.

Its a recipe for disaster, those experts tell to all who are willing to listen.

So maybe the deal doesn't make the most sense from a business standpoint. But as Illich has proven time and time again, when it comes to his beloved sports teams, he doesn't always base his decisions on business principals.

Emotion comes into play, and when it comes to Tigers' baseball, Miguel Cabrera is king.

Say what you will about Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and everyone else. Cabrera is the one who puts 40,000-plus fans into the seats at Comerica Park nearly every game. Go take in a game at Comerica Park and it's instantly clear just how special Cabrera is. Each time he comes to the plate, the chatter subsides and every eye focuses solely on the man at the plate. Each time he steps into the batters box, there's potential for something special. He's greatness personified.

And as Tigers fans, he's ours.

Make no mistake. While others around baseball are grumbling about this deal, the Tigers aren't the only organization willing to break the bank for Cabrera. If you don't think Boston, New York, Los Angeles and a half-other cash-happy franchises would have signed Miggy to the same deal, you're kidding yourself.

But they don't get a shot, because the Tigers got proactive and gave the game's best player a historic contract well before any other team had a chance to come calling. Free agency was still two years away. Now it's very possible that Cabrera will remain a Tiger for the remainder of his career.

Illich and the Tigers took a big chance with this contract, but at the same time, this is Cabrera's way of showing his love for this franchise. He'll very well become the face of the Tigers in the present and well into the future, the same way Gordie Howe and later Steve Yzerman became synonymous with the Red Wings and Barry Sanders was the shining star for the Lions.

Could this contract come back to bite the Tigers in the long run? Of course. But it's not like there's a salary cap that limits who much money they can spend. If Illich is willing to hand out a $300 million to one of the best players in the history of the game, who are we to complain?

Personally, as a Tigers fan, I'm thrilled. Watching Cabrera come to the plate four times a night, sweat trickling down the forehead of the opposing pitcher, his silky-smooth swing, the ball launching off his bat and arcing out over the bullpen into the leftfield seats. That's what keeps me watching baseball 162 nights per year (plus a few more for the playoffs).

You can't put a price tag on that.

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