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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tigers could be popping corks soon — but should they? It's their call in the end

Corks could be popping and champagne flowing by later tonight — the wee hours of Friday morning, that is.

The Detroit Tigers, having reduced their magic number to two, could clinch as soon as the end of Thursday night's games, if the Indians lose to the Texas Rangers, and they beat the Oakland A's. Both happen, and they're in.

And the first divisional title in 24 years is surely worth celebrating. You'd expect — as you do in all these situations — that the champagne is already on ice.

But here's the rub where the Tigers are concerned — do they plan their celebration differently because of Miguel Cabrera, who has had alcohol-related problems in the past? Do they go with non-alcoholic champagne, instead? Do they sip grape juice in deference to their teammate?


Or Miggy could do what Josh Hamilton — another noted, MVP-caliber baseball player who's had substance abuse issues — did last year when the Rangers clinched the American League West title. Hamilton, who like Cabrera, has a companion/guardian who helps him steer clear of problem situations (Miggy's is former big-leaguer Raul Gonzalez), kept himself out of a tempting situation last fall by staying in the trainer's room while his Rangers teammates celebrated in the clubhouse. He skipped the rest of the celebration to meet a previous engagement as a speaker for a fan gathering the park.

"I'm excited and what happened yesterday as far as the guys celebrating in here, that's part of it," Hamilton told ESPN-Dallas the next day. "It's not for me. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have liked to have been in here with them. I just felt like it was in my best interest if I didn't participate. But it's amazing that it just so happened to work out that we clinched the same day they are having Faith Day and I'm speaking out there."

That could happen in Cabrera's case, too. He could decide to absent himself. Or the Tigers organization may have a plan for the proceedings that none of us are privy to, just yet.

But I'm not sure they'll be willing to tell, if asked about it. The Tigers organization, citing Cabrera's privacy, have been very guarded and closed-mouthed about Cabrera's situation all season long.

Don't take that as a criticism. It's not. It's merely an acknowledgment that Cabrera is not as open to talking about the situation as Hamilton appears to be. Nor are the Tigers.

And that's fine. Different people. Different personalities. Different levels of comfort with talking about the situation.

It just means that the perfectly valid questions may go unanswered, if asked. Probably met with a lot of "No comment" and "Next question." And that's perfectly fine, too. Like most of us were inclined to say back in the spring, what matters most is what's best for Cabrera, and what's best for the Tigers.

And, in the end, that's their call, not ours.

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