As The Common Man noted on Notgraphs earlier today, O-Cab is hanging up his spikes. The journeyman shortstop announced his retirement after a 15-year career, including eight years in Montreal, three years in Anaheim, and a series of one-off stints in Minnesota, San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and the South Side of Chicago. But though he spent more than half his career in French Canada, and only 72 games in Boston (regular season and playoffs), Orlando Cabrera will forever be remembered for his time in Beantown. In that way, his career is a cruel synecdoche for the Expo experience.
As a low-OBP, glove-first shortstop with a bit of pop, Cabrera’s career value was somewhere in between the Alex Gonzalezes (retired Alex S. and still-active Alex
S.) and Jose Valentin. But Cabrera was forever compared to — and always in the shadow of — Edgar Renteria, his smooth countryman. The two are the greatest players in the history of Colombian baseball, and they both happened to play the same position at the same time. In a situation like that, frayed nerves were bound to occur, as Jorge Arangure, Jr. wrote on ESPN in 2008.
I won’t accept dealing with him. I think he’s disrespected so many baseball people in Colombia who have been working to improve the sport.
— Edgar Renteria
These are ignorant comments from an ignorant person… I’ve always respected Edgar as one of the smartest people on the field, who, because of his intelligence, has excelled beyond his abilities. For him to make comments like that is disappointing.
— Orlando Cabrera
Renteria immediately made a splash, getting the World Series-winning hit for the Marlins in 1997 as a 20-year old second-year player. Cabrera, two years older, had been called up for his first big league cup of coffee that season and went 4-for-18 with the Expos. Renteria had actually been discovered by Cabrera’s father, a Marlins scout who had trouble interesting the team in the undersized Orlando but had no trouble selling them on the smooth, tall, projectable Edgar.
Orlando’s great moment came seven years later, as the Red Sox swept Edgar Renteria’s St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Championship in 86 years, but Cabrera’s heroics weren’t about what he did — he went 0-5 in Game Four and 4-for-17 in the World Series — but who he was, a slick-fielding, high-energy shortstop who helped overhaul the moribund clubhouse as rookie GM Theo Epstein dumped Nomar Garciaparra for a defense-first infield of Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. (Mientkiewicz retired last year.) Cabrera wasn’t a great hitter, but his energy nonetheless helped spark the team.
Cabrera wasn’t much of a hitter, with a career wOBA of .312, but he sure could pick it. Over the years of his career, 1997 to 2011, he had 29 WAR, the 12th-highest WAR among shortstops. (And many of them, including Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, and Michael Young, accumulated a number of those wins at another position.) He played 1985 games in 15 seasons, including his 1997 cup of coffee; in other words, he played the equivalent of 13.2 150-game seasons, and averaged 2.2 wins a season each year. Orlando Cabrera was an above-average shortstop for a really long time.
And he’s retiring on his terms: MLB Trade Rumors reported that he actually turned down a one-year offer from the Braves earlier this offseason. So he didn’t have to choose retirement as a default after a winter’s worth of the phone not ringing.
He made his retirement announcement on a Colombian radio station, but I can’t speak Spanish. Can anyone listen to this and let me know what he said?
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