Ramon Santiago has hit only 27 home runs in 783 major league games, so sometimes he asks Miguel Cabrera, his friend and Tigers teammate, to hit one for him. Santiago requested one in the middle of a game in Texas on May 19. Cabrera had already hit a typical Cabrera home run, the kind almost nobody else hits: a seemingly casual opposite-field poke at a changeup that landed beyond the right centerfield fence.
In the dugout before the fifth inning Santiago placed his order, as though Cabrera were a waiter and home runs were the evening's special. Santiago spoke Spanish: Ponme a gozar. Make me happy. Cabrera obliged. He hit a line drive so low that Rangers lefthander Derek Holland actually ducked, but with such force that the ball flew over the centerfield fence.
Cabrera had hit two homers: one for himself, one for Santiago. "I said, 'You make my day,' " Santiago said. "He said, 'The game's not over yet.' "
In the eighth inning Cabrera went deep to centerfield again. It was the kind of performance that makes managers wonder if he should be walked every time he picks up a bat. But that doesn't work either. In the sixth inning of the same game the Rangers' Ron Washington ordered an intentional walk of Cabrera with runners on first and second base, loading the bases.
And what did Cabrera think of that? With a laugh that sounds as if it came straight out of a text message—Hahahahahahaha!—he says, "They walk me ... awwww, they're in trouble!"
Trouble is having to face Prince Fielder, Detroit's cleanup hitter, with the bases loaded. Fielder can seem even more like a superhero than Cabrera—starting with his name, arguably the best in sports. It is the baseball version of Tiger Woods, though even in that case, Tiger is a nickname. Fielder was born a Prince.
Fielder has the kind of body that an eight-year-old might draw: enormous round shoulders, thighs that look like torsos, and a face so large it could double-park. He also has short arms, giving him an impossibly quick and compact swing, which helps explain why, after the Rangers walked Cabrera, Fielder smacked a 95-mph sinkerball so hard, it reached the centerfield fence on one bounce. Double. Three runs in.
The Rangers won the game, but the most fearsome power-hitting combination in baseball had spoken. Cabrera bats righty, and Fielder bats lefty. Cabrera hits third, and Fielder hits fourth. Cabrera thrives on hitting to the opposite field, and Fielder is a classic pull hitter. Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, and Fielder is the game's best sidekick. Years from now we may look back and decide Cabrera is Mickey Mantle and Fielder is Roger Maris; Cabrera is Hank Aaron and Fielder is Eddie Mathews; Cabrera is Babe Ruth and Fielder is Lou Gehrig.
Superheroes? Nah. They know better than that. When Cabrera is asked what he admires most about Fielder, he does not talk about his teammate's moon-scraping home runs, his preposterous strength or his explosive swing. The first thing Cabrera says is, "He is ready to play every day, man."
Fielder remembers the last time he missed a game: Sept. 13, 2010. His Brewers were 66--76 at the time, with no chance of making the playoffs. When the team had landed in Houston late the night before for a series against the Astros, Fielder started hoarding Gatorade. His sons had been sick from food poisoning, and he knew he was next. He wanted to be ready.