In the hours and days following Miguel Cabrera’s arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, many fans and reporters suggested that the Tigers hire someone to work as a coach, companion or “accountability partner” who could help keep Cabrera out of trouble and avoid temptation. The model cited was the arrangement that the Texas Rangers have set up for outfielder Josh Hamilton with coach Johnny Narron.
On the road, the two have adjoining rooms. They eat together, with Narron usually handling the cash because Hamilton doesn’t carry more than $20 to help keep temptations at bay. They study the Bible together. They go to the park together. The exception is when Hamilton’s wife Katie and his family travel with him.
Such a mentor figure is apparently considered necessary in the treatment program set up for Cabrera by Major League Baseball and the players’ union, as former major league outfielder Raul Gonzalez was hired to be a companion for the Tigers’ first baseman during the season. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said that Gonzalez was recommended by Cabrera’s representatives.
“They knew him, and knew him well, and thought he would be a good person,” Dombrowski said. “They wanted us to meet him. Miguel had never met him until that took place.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him throughout his career, as far as a person. When I met him, I was very impressed. He’s a quality individual.”
According to Jon Paul Morosi, the Tigers wouldn’t specify exactly what Gonzalez’s responsibilities would entail, citing health privacy laws. Dombrowski did say that Gonzalez would be with the team for the entire season. And though he won’t be suiting up for games, Gonzalez will help out with pregame on-field workouts.
Gonzalez, 37, played professionally for 20 seasons, seeing time in the majors from 2000-2004, mostly with the New York Mets. He was still playing in the Mexican League as recently as last year, and was preparing to play this season before being tabbed to assist Cabrera. Gonzalez is a native of Puerto Rico.
One person who could definitively vouch for the Tigers’ new hire is shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who played with Gonzalez in the Cleveland Indians’ system.
“Good player, good guy,” Peralta said. “Intelligent guy. He has a lot of experience. He had the respect (of his teammates). When I played with him, he was never in trouble. He was always at the field. A good father and family guy.”
Morosi also said in his report that Dombrowski would not say who would be paying Gonzalez’s salary, whether it’s the Tigers, MLB, the players’ union or Cabrera himself.