Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Thousands of names fill the major league baseball archives. With the sheer volume of players who have competed in baseball for the last 140 or so years, there are bound to be names that repeat. Not just Smith and Jones, but less common ones like Darwin, Hampton and Moreland.
Since baseball is a family game, the same names pop up all the time. Bell. Boone. Canseco. But have you noticed that every once in awhile, a couple of players show up at around the same time with the same name and they aren't related? In fact, you may have never heard the name previously, at least not in a major league setting.
There are two players with the last name Cain in baseball right now -- Matt and Lorenzo (yes, I know Matt hasn't played a game this year). They've each played together in major league baseball for the last five years, after there were just three previous Cains spread out over 125 years of baseball.
There are lots of other examples of this, and sometimes I wonder how it happens. Someone who studies linguistics or culture or population probably has a term for this already because I think it's more than coincidence. The simplest explanation is to look at how many Latin American players have arrived in the game over the last couple of decades. They can't help but bring certain surnames with them.
And, sometimes, there is one player to start it all. Once they arrive, suddenly, there are a bunch of other players with the same name. It's almost as if the original player spawned all the others ones.
Francisco Cabrera "started" the run of Cabreras that we have seen in major league baseball over the last 25 years.
When Cabrera arrived in 1989, there had been only one other player with his surname to reach the majors. Al Cabrera, a native of Spain, played in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913. But after Francisco Cabrera? Twelve players with the last name Cabrera have played in the MLB. They are Francisco's spawn.
Maybe it was the thrill of Cabrera's game-winning hit to end the 1992 NLCS that inspired legions of Cabreras, but more probably it was the sheer influx of Latin American talent.
Four years after Francisco Cabrera's last MLB season in 1993, another Cabrera debuted.
Orlando Cabrera started in 1997, lasted all the way to 2011, and played for five different teams in the playoffs. He is most known for being the shortstop on the Red Sox's 2004 curse-busting World Series team.
The same year, a pitcher named Jose Cabrera made his major league debut with the Astros. He would play for six years, appearing in more than 50 games in consecutive years for the Astros, Braves and Brewers.
The following season, in 1998, utility player Jolbert Cabrera began with the Indians. He also bounced around with the Mariners, Dodgers and Reds. Cabrera is the older brother of Orlando Cabrera, bringing the family aspect into what was becoming a "baseball name."
In 2000, Alex Cabrera started and ended his MLB career with the Diamondbacks. He played in 31 games. He then moved on to Japan, where he played 12 seasons and slugged 49, 55 and 50 home runs in consecutive seasons.
The most famous Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera, started in 2003 with the Marlins the year they won the World Series. The two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer will probably be one of the greatest players I've ever seen by the time his career is done.
Pitcher Fernando Cabrera reached the majors with Cleveland in 2004, where he had his most success over seven years. He also played briefly with the Orioles and Red Sox.
Another pitching Cabrera, Daniel, also started in 2004. He began quickly, then faded, leading the league in losses in 2007. I'll always remember Daniel Cabrera for being unable to smile on his baseball cards. Lots of squinty-eyed, tough-guy action.
I don't think I noticed how many Cabreras were appearing in baseball until Melky Cabrera first appeared with the Yankees in 2005 (given that he played just six games that year, I probably didn't even know about him until 2006). Cabrera started with much fan fare in New York, as often happens. I'd just like to say to John Sterling, who insisted on calling Cabrera the "melk man," that the word is "milk," I don't know what "melk" is, I don't want it delivered, and just stop it with the goofy home run calls, all of you.
Asdrubal Cabrera began in 2007 with 45 games for the Indians (the Indians have accumulated quite a few Cabreras), and it's a good thing he played just 45 to start because I needed time to learn how to spell "Asdrubal". Cabrera was a mainstay for the Indians for awhile, and now plays for Tampa Bay.
Everth Cabrera started with the Padres in 2009. I didn't like him because he's one of those pesky base-stealing guys who the Padres always tried to sic on the Dodgers in an effort to make their whole season. And then Cabrera would get Padres fans all giddy because he stole a couple bases against L.A., when -- big picture -- he couldn't hit, and, oh yeah, Biogenesis suspension and various legal issues. Now he's with the Orioles, batting .205, which seems just about right.
2012 saw the debut of two new Cabreras. There was Edwar Cabrera, who pitched briefly for the Rockies, and Alberto Cabrera, who pitched two seasons for the Cubs, and is now in the minors with the Tigers.
Those are the most recent Cabreras and brought the complete major league total of Cabreras to 14.
One Cabrera from 1876 to 1988.
One Cabrera from 1989 to 1993
And 12 Cabreras from 1997 to 2015.
Stay tuned for the next edition of "Spawn".