Monday, April 5, 2021

1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Second Baseman Miguel Cairo

There are players in Major League history with more eye-popping stats than infielder Miguel Cairo, but very few of them were unanimous selections for the Topps All-Star Rookie team. Cairo was playing his first full MLB season at the age of 24 in 1998. He was already playing for his 4th MLB franchise, but it was because lots of teams wanted him! The expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays needed talented players to fill out their roster - and Cairo fit the bill at second base.

His rookie season included 138 hits (26 doubles and 5 Triples) and 19 stolen bases in 150 games. He was the 8th pick in the Expansion draft, plucked from the Cubs organization. 

Cairo signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a minor league free agent when he was just 16 years old out of Venezuela. He made a big impression after a great year in High A Bakersfield in 1994 - he stole a career best 44 bases while hitting .291 in 155 games. From then on he was an intriguing target for various teams looking to improve their org's speed and/or defense. Seattle picked him up in a trade with the Dodgers after the 1995 season, then flipped him to Toronto less than a month later. He had a strong season in AAA for the Jays, and made his MLB debut in April of that year. He then came to the Cubs in time for the 1997 season, and he spent another year mostly in AAA, now in Iowa. He had 159 hits for the AAA team, and once again showed decent speed with 40 steals. The Devil Rays felt he was ready to take the next step and handed him the starting 2B job for 1998.

His most prolific seasons came as Tampa's starting second baseman, where he hit .275/.319/.356. He wasn't a power hitter, is what I'm saying. But he did pile up the singles and was a talented defender. He'd end up back in the Cubs organization in 2001 after the Devil Rays wanted to give Brent Abernathy a shot as the everyday 2nd baseman. Cairo was released in November by the Devil Rays, then picked up by Oakland, and was traded late in Spring training to the Cubs. The Cubs provided Cairo with the opportunity to re-invent himself from a light hitting second baseman into a light hitting utility infielder. This would be a key development for Cairo, as his versatility would allow him to prove his usefulness to many more teams for many more years. 

After a season with Chicago (split between AAA and the big league club), Cairo caught the eye of the Cardinals' Tony LaRussa. The Cubs placed Cairo on Waivers and the Cardinals snapped him up in time for the 2001 post season run. Cairo would pick up a hit and a stolen base against the eventual World Series Champion Diamondbacks in the 2001 NLDS. The following year, Cairo would play all over the diamond, appearing at every position except pitcher, center field, and catcher. He filled the Super Utility role that was a vintage LaRussa strategy. He would give anyone and everyone a day off when called upon, and was a valuable double switch option in the National League. 

In the 2002 NLDS, Cairo reached base in all 5 plate appearances. He'd add 5 more hits in the NLCS, but the Cardinals fell just short, losing to the Giants


Cairo had a great season with the Yankees in 2004, again playing all over the infield. He appeared in a career high 122 games, and topped 100 hits for the first time since his days as an everyday player in Tampa. He would go on to play for the Mets, then back to the Yankees, then the Cardinals again, then Seattle and Philadelphia before finally settling for a 3 year stint in Cincinnati. His time with Philly included his only World Series experience, though he was on the roster he did not get a plate appearance. In all, Cairo played in 17 MLB seasons, and collected over 1,000 career hits and scored over 500 career runs. 

This year Cairo has re-united with Tony LaRussa to serve as the bench coach for the Chicago White Sox.

Do you have any Miguel Cairo memories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading! 


  1. No particular memories but he was a quietly reliable role player for the Yankees.

  2. His 95 rookie card does not look familiar to me, but it's been a long time since I've looked at my dodger team sets. I believe he was traded for mike blowers.