Gleyber Torres and Ronald Acuña, Jr., have ushered in a new generation of brilliant ballplayers from Venezuela over the last two seasons. They give the land of Luis Aparicio and Miguel Cabrera a promising future in Major League Baseball.
Torres of the Yankees and Acuña of the Braves are among the best young players in baseball, joining Dominican Republic stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Cuba’s Yordan Alvarez among the most accomplished youngsters in the game in 2019.
A strong young crop of Latin American big leaguers ascended to prominence over the last two years, following in the footsteps of Cabrera, Adrián Beltré, José Altuve, Yadier Molina, Robinson Canó, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols.
Ultimately, though, La Vida Baseball’s Blue Ribbon Panel chose Cabrera as the Latino Player of the Decade.
Cabrera slumped somewhat over the last three years while Altuve, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, J.D. Martinez, Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, Acuña and Torres became the biggest Latino stars in baseball. Nonetheless, Cabrera’s entire body of work from 2010 through 2019 is beyond compare among Latin American ballplayers.
Cabrera earned two Most Valuable Player Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards while garnering seven All-Star berths this decade. He also won four batting titles and secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 when he led the American League in batting average, home runs and RBI in 2012.
He hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI in 2012 to win the Triple Crown and claim his first of two consecutive MVP Awards. His batting average was actually lower in 2012 than it was in 2011 (.344) and 2013 (.348).
He drove in 137 runs or more twice while collecting more than 100 RBI in six seasons this decade.
The La Vida Baseball Player of the Decade was chosen in voting from a Blue Ribbon Panel that included one current World Series-winning manager, a former manager, a president of an MLB team, two ESPN baseball experts, and sports/baseball columnists from the top three media markets in America – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Cabrera was in the Top 3 of each of the ballots. Considering that no Latino pitcher has won a Cy Young Award since Felix Hernandez of the Mariners in 2010, it wasn’t a surprise that only three pitchers drew votes. Even then, none of the three pitchers was on more than two ballots.
Hernandez, Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and the late José Fernandez each draw modest consideration. Rivera was the first unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but he pitched in only three full seasons and part of another this decade.
Baseball’s all-time saves leader was limited to only nine appearances because of injury in 2012, the penultimate season of his career.
Jose Fernandez was on Pace
Fernandez, who missed almost a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched in parts of four seasons before dying in a boating accident in 2016.
The Cuban defector was the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star while finishing his career with a 38-17 record and 2.58 ERA. The 6-foot-3 righthander was only 24 years old when he died.
We’ll never know what Fernandez could have accomplished in his career. He might have fulfilled his great promise in the same way as another kid who also debuted with the Marlins 20 years old.
Cabrera has established Hall of Fame credentials since helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series as a rookie. Although he posted a -0.7 WAR in 2017, a 0.1 WAR in 2018 and a 0.0 WAR in 2019, the Tigers’ designated hitter still posted a 43.5 WAR this decade, per BaseballReference.com.
That 43.5 WAR is actually higher than the WAR Altuve and Molina posted over the decade.
Altuve and Molina are both on pace to eventual inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cabrera appears assured to earn a spot among the immortals in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with Luis Aparicio, the only Venezuelan currently enshrined.
For now, Cabrera will go down as the first La Vida Baseball Player of the Decade.