Miguel Cabrera fought through the last month of the season and then the playoffs while dealing with an amorphously defined injury. The Tigers variously called it a hip, groin and abdomen issue during the season, then Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski announced that Cabrera had a Grade II or III groin strain.
Dr. William Meyers is one of the top sports hernia doctors, having performed this surgery on many professional athletes including Josh Hamilton, Magglio Ordonez, Troy Tulowitzki and even the NFL's Adrian Peterson. However, Dr. Meyers has made efforts over the past few years to change the nomenclature on his specialty, writing articles about how "core muscle injury" should be the preferred term.
(Quick trivia question: What MLB doctor coined the term "sports hernia"? Dr. Tim Kremchek of the Reds, in an attempt to explain the injury simply.)
For Cabrera, this is a normal and expected outcome. While the Tigers weren't clear on the nomenclature, they clearly had a handle on the injury, even when Cabrera was refusing treatment and hiding the injury as best he could. He avoided doctors as long as he could, though one does have to wonder if earlier treatment might have made him more effective.
Probably not, given the need for surgery. As with the others who have had this surgery, there appear to be very solid results and very little in the way of recurrence after repair. As with most surgeries, it is done arthroscopically, giving a short recovery time of six to eight weeks. That means Cabrera will not only be ready for spring training, but he's likely to have a near-normal offseason program.
Using some of the past surgical repairs, especially the ones done by Meyers, as a guide, there's little reason to think there will be any drop-off for Cabrera. The sample size of this cohort is small, to be sure, since it's a recent diagnosis, but even the top-end talents did not have major drop-offs. Of the ones who did, such as Hamilton, it's hard to pin any of that on the surgery.
Cabrera had lost both speed and power while dealing with the injury. His running in the playoffs wouldn't have beaten a Molina, while his power was sapped as well. Even on homers, Cabrera was fooled. One homer in Oakland looked like a towering shot that would go deep into the O.co seats, but ended up a wall-scraper that made Cabrera quicken his trot a bit. Those should both be improved after surgery, though don't expect him to be a speedster!
I do want to be clear that even though there has been different nomenclature used, I don't believe the Tigers were being deliberately misleading. Sometimes, the exact injury is not known until the player is opened up, and frankly, when managing an injury like this, the focus is on symptom relief, pain management and functional value, not differential diagnosis.
Miguel Cabrera is at the top of his game. The 2013 Hank Aaron Award winner is one of the best hitters of this or any era, so keeping him at his peak is key for Tigers' hopes to get back to the World Series. His surgery should help him get there. While another run at a Triple Crown isn't likely, being healthy gives him a chance that few others will ever have.
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