|© 2004 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Cabrera's arrival has ignited Sox10/04/2004 11:41 PM ET
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Shortstop Orlando Cabrera felt he had nothing to play for when he was with the Expos during the first half of the 2004 season. After all, Montreal had the worst record in the National League at the time.
But on July 31, the Expos gave him something to play for, trading Cabrera to the Red Sox in a four-team deal that also sent shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. The Expos traded Cabrera because they felt they had no chance of signing him to an extension.
The move proved to be a coup for the Red Sox, who went 42-18 after Cabrera's arrival and advanced to the American League Division Series against the Angels. His work at shortstop improved the defense, and, after struggling the first two weeks following the trade, he contributed on offense as well, hitting .294 with six home runs and 31 RBIs.
"He has done a nice job since coming over here," said general manager Theo Epstein. "He is a well-rounded player. He has been out there every day. He has been a dependable guy for us defensively. He has made all the plays. He has kind of made it look pretty easy out there.
"He really struggled the first two weeks, but he has really been a tough out recently. He has shown a little pop and has run the bases well."
Expos manager Frank Robinson said he is not surprised that Cabrera has made an impact on the Red Sox. After all, Robinson saw Cabrera become the MVP of the Expos in 2003, in which he hit .297 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs.
Even though Cabrera did well offensively for the Red Sox, Robinson feels the shortstop's biggest contribution has been on defense.
"He is steady at shortstop. They didn't have that before with Nomar. He is not as solid as Cabrera is defensively," Robinson said.
Cabrera refused to take any credit for the surging Red Sox. He said the team took its game to another level after the trade.
"In the last 50 games, everybody's numbers went up," Cabrera said. "I think the entire lineup hit over .300 the last two months of the season. Defensively, I'm playing with a Gold Glove first baseman in Doug Mientkiewicz. He has made me more comfortable when I throw the ball to first base."
Now Cabrera will be making his first postseason appearance, and he's hoping that the Red Sox go far enough in the playoffs so his wife, Eliana, can watch him play. She had an operation on Sept. 20 and is recuperating in Colombia.
"She is doing excellent," Cabrera reports. "They gave her about a month to recuperate. Hopefully, she will be back here with me by the second round of the playoffs. Hopefully, we are still going to play at that time. Hopefully, we can go to the World Series and she can be here with me."
After the postseason is over, the Red Sox have to decide whether to keep Cabrera, who is a free agent.
"There are some hard decisions to be made in the offseason," Epstein said. "We hope we don't have to make those decisions for about a month. We have more important business ahead of us."
Cabrera said the Red Sox would be his first choice, but he is willing to listen to other teams.
"It's hard for me to say that I'm going to stay here, but the only thing that I can tell you is that, of all the teams that will be interested in my services, the Boston Red Sox would be my first choice."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.