MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets

Asdrubal Cabrera Unleashes The War Elephants

Recently, I’ve been spending a bit too much time on baby-naming websites. I’m not expecting, nor do I have the dreaded Baby Fever, though one of the many pleasures of womanhood is that my mother calls weekly to “reassure” me that the family doesn’t care if I skip the nuptials and get knocked up, so long as I produce them a grandchild stat. I actually use the websites when I’m writing fiction to help name the characters in my novel. Whenever I see an interesting name out in the world, I file it away for later research—where does the name come from; what does it mean; am I skilled enough to empty it of any associations with famous people who bear it and ascribe it to my very own fake person?

You can bet Asdrubal is one of the names I’ve researched this year, and though I haven’t yet stolen it for my own fake person, its history is one of the more interesting I’ve come across. The short version is that Asdrubal is the Spanish form of the name Hasdrubal, which, drawing from roots in early Semitic languages (e.g. Phoenician) means, “God helps” or “God protects.” The longer version is that history’s most famous Hasdrubal was a Carthaginian general and the younger brother of the even more famous Carthaginian general, Hannibal. Like his brother, Hasdrubal led a series of military campaigns against Rome and was also said to have a contingent of trained war elephants. Tasked with joining Hannibal to take on the empire in the Italy proper around 207 BC, he and his army were cut off by a pair of Roman units during the journey; Hasdrubal was killed in battle and decapitated, his head later sent to Hannibal’s camp in a sack.

All this to say—hooray, Cabrera is the National League Player of the Week for last week’s stellar performance! And—oh no, Cabrera was out of the lineup Monday due to the same knee pain that had him on the DL at the start of the month!

But first we celebrate: Cabrera has often distinguished himself as a strong offensive player, especially among shortstops, with a career WARP of 19.9. The 30-year-old also continues to switch hit with power on both sides, his recent hot streak putting him at 16 home runs, his second-most in a season (he also hit 16 in 2012; his career best was 25 in 2011). Cabrera was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, and has been named Player of the Week twice before—in 2008 and 2011—though both by the American League while with Cleveland.

Cabrera’s recent performance is even more impressive paired with the knowledge that he’s battling an injury. His average since he returned from the DL on August 19 shows no evidence of either pain or missed time, though it appeared he suffered a possible attack by a bottle of the Backstreet Boys’ hair bleach while in Florida. Whatever happened down there, I’m buying into all the baseball hair superstitions anew—since he’s been back in Queens, Cabrera has batted .438. This past week, for which he received the honor, he led the league in batting average, slashing .545/.583/1.136 across six games. His hits included three home runs and four doubles with eight RBI; he also stole his second base of the year against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

Most pleasurably, Cabrera hit all three of his week’s home runs against the Phillies, two of them in one game and from opposite sides of the plate on Friday, making that the fifth multi-home run game of his career. Couldn’t have happened against a better team, truly.

And then, a development even more frightful than whatever the heck he did to his hair. Cabrera left Sunday’s game against the Phillies after a collision with the first baseman. What originally looked to be an arm injury turned out to be more pain in the patella that has plagued him since spring training. He then pinch hit and struck out Monday night, and is said to be out of the lineup again tonight (Tuesday) as the Mets and Marlins continue in Wild Card tug of war.

As we wait for Céspedes’ flying bat to return from the thermosphere, I can’t help but fret over Cabrera’s injury flare up. Sure, the Mets have won eight of their last 10, but a lot of those were thanks in large part to Cabrera’s hot streak, and as the days of August dwindle, there’s ever less room for error. Call me a killjoy, but if we really are going to take a shot at this wild card thing, Céspedes can’t be the only one hitting, especially given his own tenuous leg injury situation.

Then again, I would hate to see either slugger overworked and broken for next season (crosses fingers about that whole Céspedes thing). Here’s hoping a day or two of rest is enough for Cabrera to return and live up to the best parts of his given name—special protection from the Big Guy and/or his war elephants—as the Mets angle for a final push in their campaign against Miami.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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