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Cabrera must get life back in order

There's him taking a swig of scotch in front of an officer.

There's him pulling that old standby of famous people, throwing out the "Do you know who I am?'' line to an arresting policeman.

And now there is the revelation that the Tigers first baseman was on his way to spring training in Lakeland from his home in Boca Raton when his car broke down. Driving drunk is never a good idea, but it's particularly not a good idea to do it on a four-hour drive, late at night on a desolate road (he was pulled over on Florida Route 70 after his radiator blew up, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski revealed Saturday).

The incident paints a very unflattering picture -- one of a famous man with a sense of entitlement, an unmitigated recklessness and an amazing unawareness of the seriousness of his act.

"He needs to stop doing that,'' Tigers team leader Magglio Ordonez said. "It's sad."

Ordonez said he was surprised by the incident, noting that he saw no sign of trouble last season or this winter. He and Cabrera work out together daily in South Florida, where they both live.

"I've never seen him do anything wrong,'' Ordonez said, suggesting it's possible this was the only relapse since Cabrera was treated for alcoholism following a late 2009 bender.

And while Ordonez expressed faith in Cabrera's recovery, he clearly wasn't convinced of its certainty. When someone suggested that Cabrera would be OK, Ordonez responded, "I hope so."

The main concern now must be about Cabrera's life. If there's one tiny plus, it's the timing of the incident. His last known episode came in the final days of the 2009 season, when Cabrera drank with some members of the rival White Sox, then played like he was hungover as he and the Tigers blew a chance to be in the playoffs on a lost weekend.

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But now it's spring training, and the immediate impact of his arrest on the team is less. He has six weeks of practice time before the real games begin.

"He's as down as he can be. He feels terrible,'' Dombrowski said.

Assuming that's true, that's a good sign. Reports about the arrest suggest he didn't get it (he sported a goofy grin in his mug shot), didn't get the seriousness of the situation or the impact it might have on his family, friends and teammates.

The Tigers and Major League Baseball certainly get it. Dombrowski referred to Cabrera as having a "problem'' and said "any time you deal with alcoholism and an addiction, you realize it's an ongoing battle.'' And Dombrowski admitted his star "fell off the program."

It's right that the Tigers are keeping Cabrera away from camp and are giving him time to concentrate on getting his life back together. Dombrowski said Cabrera will meet with doctors, first to "assess what's taken place.'' Dombrowski wouldn't put a timetable on Cabrera's return, except to say he'll likely have a good chance to be ready before the start of the season since even rehab stays are often about a month.

Dombrowski also said Cabrera didn't argue strenuously when the Tigers told him to focus on getting his personal life back in order rather than report to spring. That's another good sign.

But a couple good signs don't guarantee that this is a one-shot deal or that a recovery is around the corner.

Dombrowski said Cabrera's situation is just one of 20-25 such cases he's witnessed in his long career as a general manager.

"When you deal with alcoholism,'' Dombrowki said, "it's a daily battle."