Cabrera doesn't want to ruin image with fans

MIAMI -- Although he is still young, Miguel Cabrera understands that baseball is not only a sport but also a business. However, the Venezuelan wouldn't want the business part to influence the image that fans have of him.

"Fans are really important to me, especially the ones from Miami, and I wouldn't like to ruin my relationship with them due to a misunderstanding," Cabrera told ESPNdeportes.com.

Last weekend, the Marlins' main executives criticized Cabrera's absence to the Annual FanFest at Dolphin Stadium. President David Samson and general manager Larry Beinfest were "extremely dissapointed" with Cabrera's no-show at the event.

Cabrera said he had an inescapable commitment related to his father's health and that he tried to let the Marlins know through his agents.

"I'd already separated that date for an appointment related to my father's health. The Marlins informed me just a week before the festival and I coudn't cancel my meeting, and that's what I told my agents," said Cabrera.

"In four years in the major leagues, I've only assisted once at that event and it was never such a big deal. I don't know what's so different now," he added.

The difference could be that Cabrera, who made $472,000 in 2006, filed for salary arbitration for the first time in his career Friday. The player is asking for $7.2 millions and the team is offering $6.7 millions.

"My absence had nothing to do with the pending arbitration, because neither the Marlins nor me believe in the process. It's purely a business issue and I understand it perfectly," he said.

"I'm not mad with the administration, although I'm a little worried that Miami fans could now have a distorted image of myself. I'm committed to doing the best for the team," Cabrera said. "Moreover, to compensate for my absence, I promise to assist in every activity the Marlins may organize in the following days," he added.

In four seasons, Cabrera has a .311 average with 104 home runs and 404 RBIs. Last year, he averaged .339 and he fought for the batting tittle until the last day of the season with Freddy Sanchez, who ended with an average of .344. Cabrera, who will turn 24 in April, could become a free agent before his 26th birthday.

With the salaries being paid nowadays, Cabrera and lefty Johan Santana, will surely vie in 2008 to become the first Venezuelans to get $100 million contracts in Major League Baseball.

Cabrera said he will travel from Miami to Arizona on Thursday for his salary arbitration hearing on Friday and then will return to Florida to start training with the Marlins in Palm Beach on Tuesday.

"I'm in great shape for the start of spring training, because I've been playing winter ball in Venezuela," Cabrera said.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.