September 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Kurt Mensching

Forget the Triple Crown; Tigers need to rest ailing Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera grimaces after sliding into second base last Thursday at Comerica Park. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

They say discretion is the better part of valor, so giving Miguel Cabrera a lengthy rest would be the brave thing for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to do.

Itís also the right thing.

To be sure, telling your star batter that itís in his best interest to take a seat rather than continue playing day-in and day-out during a career year isnít easy. Cabrera is a player who wants to be in the lineup. He has played 150 or more games in nine consecutive seasons.

Heís also enjoying the best season of his career, which happens to be one of the best seasons by a right-handed batter in the history of the game.

Playing with one nagging injury or another for two months now, Cabrera has shown little sign of slowing down. He batted .356 with 11 home runs and a 1.162 on-base-plus-slugging-average (OPS) in August.

If the man wants to play, how do you tell him no? Thatís a question Leyland can answer.

Should you sit him? Thatís one we can answer, and the answer is ďyes.Ē

Thereís a lot more at stake here than seeing historic numbers. Two consecutive Triple Crown titles may be the stuff legends are made of, and if Cabreraís team didnít have higher goals, then maybe you let him keep playing. Imagine the stories if Cabrera won his second Triple Crown while being unable to run the bases.

Goals are higher than that for this club.

If the Tigers do not win a World Series, in many eyes this eraís team will be seen as a good one but never a great one.

MVPs, Cy Young awards, rookies of the year, all of those individual achievements sound great.

But thereís a reason we talk about 1968 and 1984 as hallowed years, and 2006 or 2012 as only good ones.

With superstars everywhere and a payroll to go with it, the only goal that should matter is being known as a World Series champion.

And itís a lot easier to earn that title with Cabrera than without him.

In July I was asked whether the Tigers should sit Cabrera or even whether he should be on the disabled list, and my answer then was no.

Even with Cabrera dealing with a back injury and then later an abdominal issue, he was contributing and his team needed that.

At that time, the Central Division race was closer, with the lead ranging from a game and a half to three games. Sure, a division title has always felt like a formality, but baseball has a funny way of derailing formalities. Just ask the Nationals or the Angels about that one.

Now the Tigers lead the Indians by 7.5 games. With Cabrera taking a day or two off at a time, the team has still managed to score plenty of runs and extend its division lead.

The other reason for the change of opinion: Every time Cabrera jogs around the bases, every time heís slow getting up after sliding, every time he cringes after a play at third or a swing, you cringe with him.

Cabrera already seems like heís being held together by duct tape and well wishes. What if something really gets hurt and he misses the playoffs?

Maybe the Tigers could still win in the playoffs. Maybe they could still win the World Series behind the strength of their starting pitching and with others in the lineup stepping up.

But it would sure be a lot easier with Cabrera in the lineup, wouldnít it?

Forget the Triple Crown. Forget the MVP, which Cabrera may already have earned anyway. Forget putting up historic statistics.

Give Cabrera the time off his body needs. Itís time to start thinking about October.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.

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