Miami Marlins

Best player in Marlins history? Conversation starts with Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera celebrates after the Marlins beat San Francisco in the National League Divisional Series at Pro Player Stadium on Oct. 4, 2003.
Miguel Cabrera celebrates after the Marlins beat San Francisco in the National League Divisional Series at Pro Player Stadium on Oct. 4, 2003.

The Marlins will be represented at the All-Star Game for the 25th time on Tuesday night when the Midsummer Classic is played at Marlins Park in Little Havana.

Gary Sheffield and Bryan Harvey were part of the Marlins’ first All-Star Game at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1993. In 2016, four Marlins (Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez, Fernando Rodney and A.J. Ramos) were part of the All-Star Game in San Diego.

Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton will represent the Marlins this time around.

The Miami Herald is looking back at the top All-Stars who represented the Marlins — from Sheffield to Stanton — through the All-Star Game on July 11.

The Marlins have had some pretty great and special players come their way over the years including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Pudge Rodriguez and even Mike Piazza.

Miguel Cabrera may just be the best of them all.

Last week, Giancarlo Stanton was named to his fourth All-Star team and will represent the hometown team on Monday and Tuesday at events at Marlins Park.

Stanton’s fourth All-Star selection ties him with Cabrera for the franchise lead although Cabrera went in four consecutive years from 2004-2007 before being traded away along with Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers.

Since leaving the Marlins, Cabrera became the first player to win the Triple Crown in almost 50 years, won three batting titles and two MVP awards.

With the Marlins, he helped Florida win a World Series title as a rookie and appeared in four consecutive All-Star Games.

Cabrera was originally signed by the Marlins as a 16-year-old playing in Venezuela.

“You hate to see them go,” then-Marlins outfielder Cody Ross said at the time of the trade.

“They are the face of the Marlins. When people think of the Marlins they think of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.”

After being called up from the minors in 2003, Cabrera made quite a first impression as he hit a game-ending home run in 11th inning of his big-league debut on June 20 against Tampa Bay.

‘Dontrelle Willis,’ Miami Herald beat writer Clark Spencer wrote that night, ‘is no longer the only rookie sensation on the Marlins roster.’

Cabrera continued to have a huge rookie season with the Marlins and was a big part of Florida’s postseason run through the Giants, Cubs and Yankees.

That season, Cabrera drove in 62 runs after being promoted from double-A not including 12 in three postseason series.

In 2004, Cabrera was selected for his first All-Star Game — to be managed by Florida’s Jack McKeon — and was at a loss for words.

“It’s so exciting,” he said. “I thank God that I got an opportunity to be in the big leagues and to be here for the first time.”

The following year, Cabrera was selected to the National League team once again as he and Willis made their first big splash at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Miguel Cabrera hits one of his home runs with the Florida Marlins. Hector Gabino Miami Herald file photo

In his third All-Star Game played in Pittsburgh, Cabrera — selected as a third baseman for the first time after playing in the outfield — joined the Home Run Derby and was knocked out in the semifinals.

In the game, Cabrera came in as a defensive replacement in the eighth and didn’t get up to the plate.

Cabrera played his fourth and final All-Star Game as a member of the Marlins in 2007.

A shoulder injury kept him off the field and held him to pinch-hit duty only. He went 0 for 1 making him hitless in five All-Star plate appearances with the Marlins with an RBI.

In December of that year, after hitting .320 with 34 homers and 119 home runs, the Marlins traded their biggest star away figuring they couldn’t afford him.

Florida sent Cabrera and Willis — perhaps the two most popular Marlins players of all time — to Detroit for a load of top prospects including Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.

Although Miller will be at Marlins Park as an All-Star with the Indians, he didn’t do much with the Marlins, which was the case with about everyone Florida got back save for the unheralded Burke Badenhop who spent four seasons with the Marlins.

In 2014, Cabrera signed an eight-year contract extension with the Tigers worth $248 million which pays an average of $31 million per season through 2025. Cabrera previously signed an eight-year deal with the Tigers worth $153 million.

Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins Hector Gabino Miami Herald file photo

“I want to finish my career here,” Cabrera said at a press conference during spring training in Lakeland three years ago.

“I want to be a Tiger for many years to come.”

In a strange turn of events, Cabrera will miss the All-Star Game being played in his adopted hometown this year.

After going four consecutive times with Florida, Cabrera has been to seven more

All-Star Games with Detroit.

Aside from winning the first triple crown since 1967, Cabrera won the AL MVP award in 2012 and 2013 while winning the batting crown four times (2011-13, 2015).

Cabrera is the 15th player to win baseball's Triple Crown as he hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI and was the first to pull off the feat since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

“It's an unbelievable feeling,” he said after the Tigers’ 2012 regular season finale. “I can't describe the feeling.”

Florida’a Miguel Cabrera is greeted by teammate Ivan Rodriguez after his solo homer in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League championship series on Oct. 7, 2003 at Wrigley Field. AMY SANCETTA AP

Going into Friday, the 34-year-old Cabrera is batting .266 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.

As far as the Marlins record book goes, Cabrera’s five seasons (2003-07) rank as some of the best years in franchise history.

Cabrera’s .313 batting average leads the Marlins; he is fifth in home runs (138), sixth in hits (842), fourth in doubles (183), fourth in RBI (523) and ninth in games played (720).

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards