The 500 Home Run Club has long been one of the most storied and revered groups in baseball, though it got a bit watered down in the wake of the so-called “steroid era.” Still, Major League Baseball has been played an awfully long time and there are only 28 players with at least 500 career home runs.
Once thought to be a foregone conclusion, it would’ve been reasonable the last few years to wonder if Cabrera was going to make it to 500. He had 446 home runs though 2016, but managed only 16, three and 10 in the next three seasons, respectively, due to age-related decline and several injuries. Then there was the pandemic-shortened season, though he hit 10 homers in 57 games, and picking the pace up like that really boosted him heading into this season.
Here’s a look at his milestone blast — his 13th homer of the season — off Toronto lefty Steven Matz:
Cabrera, 38, is the first Venezuelan-born player to hit 500 home runs. Needing just 45 more hits, he seems likely to become the seventh player all-time to be a member of both the 500-homer club and the 3,000-hit club. Cabrera is also one of just a handful of players who could finish their careers with more than 500 homers and a batting average north of .300 — predictably, it’s an impressive group:
The Tigers originally acquired Cabrera in December 2007 as part of an eight-player trade that also netted Detroit left-hander Dontrelle Willis. In exchange, the Tigers parted with future big-league players Burke Badenhop, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Frankie De La Cruz, and Mike Rabelo. (The Marlins also received Dallas Trahern, though he never reached the Show.)
The Tigers later signed Cabrera to an eight-year extension worth $152 million before he appeared in his first regular-season contest with the club. That contract was set to expire in 2015, but the Tigers then extended Cabrera again, to another eight-year pact worth $248 million in March 2014. Cabrera has two more guaranteed years remaining, which will pay him a combined $64 million. The Tigers appear highly unlikely to exercise the subsequent club options given how his production has slipped in recent years.
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Some of Cabrera’s most notable teammates and managers recorded congratulatory videos for him that the Tigers tweeted out Sunday:
With Cabrera’s 500th home run out of the way, here are the five active players who are now closest to the mark:
Babe Ruth was first MLB player with 500 homers, getting there in 1929. He was joined by Jimmie Foxx in 1940. Only one more member — Mel Ott — joined before 1960. In the ’60s, the group expanded with all-timers Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron joining the fray. Three more were added before the end of the 1971 season in Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson. Only Willie McCovey would get there between 1971 and 1984. Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt would get there in the ’80s. Eddie Murray and Mark McGwire joined the club in the 1990s.
Then there was the explosion. From 2001-2009, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield got to 500.
It feels less watered down and more an incredible accomplishment these days. The most recent additions were Albert Pujols in 2014 and David Ortiz in 2015. And we can add Cabrera in 2021 to the list.
Cabrera was already headed straight to the Hall of Fame five years after his retirement. This is just another accolade to put on the ever-growing resume. Another one is coming relatively soon, too. He now has 2,955 hits. If Cabrera gets to 3,000, he’ll join Aaron, A-Rod, Pujols, Mays, Palmeiro and Murray as the only players in history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers.
This would be on top of his two MVPs, 11 All-Star Games, seven Silver Sluggers, four batting titles, a triple crown and a litany of other incredible stats. He played in two World Series, too, and won one as a rookie in 2003.
For now, let us celebrate Cabrera’s place in home run history. Five hundred is an awful lot of longballs. He joins just 27 others to know how it feels.