Asdrubal Cabrera: This Generation’s Omar
By Craig Gifford
When it comes to shortstops, Cleveland Indians fans have been lucky over the last couple decades.
Between Omar Vizquel from the mid 90s to early 2000s and Asdrubal Cabrera now, Tribe followers have witnessed two of the best at their position. Even Jhonny Peralta, the guy in between then and now, was, at the least, a very good hitting shortstop for several seasons.
Of course, Omar Vizquel was and is the standard bearer for any Indians shortstop, as well as most others in the game’s history, to be compared to. Vizquel had a glove like no other shortstop before or since, barring maybe Ozzie Smith. Vizquel, still playing at the age of 44, has won 11 Gold Gloves. Eight of those came in his 11 seasons with the Tribe. He also made three All-Star Games while donning Chief Wahoo on his baseball cap.
Along with the glove, he could also hit. Vizquel is currently less than 200 hits shy of the grand 3,000 mark. Father time may catch up to him before he gets there, but being that close is not too shabby. It is much too early yet to say Cabrera will have as good or better career than Vizquel. However, in this breakout season, Cabrera is starting to make people harcken back to when Vizquel was around.
Cabrera, who entered the season with 18 career home runs, already has 17 this year. batting near .300 all season, he played in his first Mid-Summer Classic last week. The work with the bat is already surpassing Omar. It’s the work with the glove that is starting to bring back the memory of Vizquel on the shores of Lake Erie.
AC, as he has been nicknamed, has spent the year making plays that will make your jaw drop. Much like Vizquel before him, he has started making no-look throws, bare-handed plays and stops in the infield gap look routine. He seems destined to pick up his first, of what should be many Gold Gloves.
Considering this is a break out year, the only question may be whether or not this is the real Asdrubal Cabrera. One has to hope. One also has to say, “why shouldn’t it be?”
Since entering the majors in August 2007, Cabrera has averaged .285 batting for his career. That is not a sign of a guy who was a slouch at the plate before. It’s the power numbers that were not there before. So, is it that a fluke?
Well, as we learned earlier this season, the power numbers likely are for real. Cabrera always showed power during batting practice, but settled for being a slap hitter in previous seasons. This past spring, new second baseman Orlando Cabrera suggested to his young teammate, of no relation, that he take that power into the games and try to hit a home run or two a night. The advice from the wise veteran clearly paid off.
The one thing that is never flukish, however, about a player is the way he plays defense. Defense rarely slumps. Players don’t tend to play good defense one year and forget how to field the next. In that regard, you would have to think the 25-yearl-old Cabrera can only get better.
That’s right, he is only 25 and playing like a veteran. If the Indians are smart, they will lock him up with a long-term deal soon. The Tribe may be a bit gun shy on a long-term deal after the way the deals with Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore failed. However, you can’t let past bad luck dictate what goes on now.
Cabrera is not Omar Vizquel, yet. It is possible he could get close or even become the new standard-bearer for Indians shortstops. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch him grow and improve for years to come? Why not tack on another decade of excellent shortstop play?