Victor Martinez tore his ACL. He might end up missing the entire season if not most of it.
This means a lot of things. One is that the Tigers will lose their 5 hole hitter and prime protector of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Because of that it also weakens the Tigers’ batting order to a degree.
Believe me, the loss or potential loss of a hitter of his caliber for a couple weeks, let alone an entire season, is hard to fathom.
It feels a bit like the game towards the end of July in 2010 when Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen were both injured in one game against the Toronto Blue Jays that somewhat dashed the Tigers playoff potential and chances.
But on the flipside, it’s not particularly the same. At that point the only other middle of the order protection Detroit had was Johnny Damon, a struggling Brennan Boesch and Jeff Larish.
Now it’s a little different. Delmon Young was a monster in the playoffs. Boesch is back from injury. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila have both come into their own as top run producers at their positions. Plus Brandon Inge had a resurgent playoffs.
The lineup is certainly much better, as is the pitching seeing as Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP. Doug Fister went bonkers down the stretch. Throw in Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and the possibility of super prospect Jacob Turner in the rotation, and thinks aren’t as bad as they appear.
Before the Martinez injury, Boesch was probably the number 2 hitter with Young third, Cabrera hitting cleanup and Martinez behind him. After V-Mart there was going to be some combination of Peralta and Avila in the 6 and 7 spots. Following them was probably the second baseman (TBD) with Inge hitting 9th.
The question that will likely come to mind is how can the Tigers can repeat in the AL Central or contend in the AL without V-Mart? Supposedly their chances are “worse” or the future is “murkier” or whatever term does it for you. Frankly, the chances are a bit worse without their starting DH, but they will contend in the Central and contend for a World Series as well.
Think about the other teams in the Central:
Kansas City is probably another year and a piece or two from really competing. Cleveland might not have the goods to do contend for the first half of the season and could fall into the Buffalo Bills of the Majors in a competing-for-the-first-half-and-then-flopping sense. Chicago has a new manager and is fresh off of trading one of their best hitters (Carlos Quentin) as well as two key pieces of their bullpen (Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor). They also lost long-time ace Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen to the newly named Miami Marlins. Minnesota is the last team in the conference. That probably comes from a talent perspective as well (take that back, they’re tied with the Indians for least talent in the division — go on and start celebrating Royals fans). But come on, Minnesota? Ron Gardenhire’s teams never go down without a fight, but this might be another year in which we see a “fight”. Joe Mauer is presumably without a position. Justin Morneau is one of the few other constants. He and new additions Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham are the only sure things. The Minnesota starting pitchers are going to get you a lot of double digit wins per pitcher, but also double digit losses per pitcher, with the latter out weighing the former. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all go 10 and 15 on the year.
So what I’m trying to say is that Detroit will contend in the AL Central and for a World Series title.
Another small positive to come out of this is the available free agent DH options. There are quite a few. Former Tigers Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena could all be fits. One potential fit could be Prince Fielder. I know this is a bit farfetched and a long shot at best, but what if Prince takes a one year deal in Detroit? I’ll leave the monetary value to the agents and GMs, but what about Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting three and four? And this isn’t any biased opinion whatsoever, but wouldn’t those two, the rest of the supporting cast and a Verlander-led pitching staff elevate the Tigers to the top of the AL? Or baseball in general?
I’m probably getting ahead of myself and Prince Fielder will probably sign with the Nationals, Toronto or Texas, but wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
One other parallel to think about, last year’s St. Louis Cardinals. I know this has come up numerous times on different sites, blogs and things of the like. But the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to season-ending surgery in spring training and went on to win the World Series.
Think what you will about the injury to Victor Martinez, the Tigers are going to be relevant in Major League Baseball. Get used to it.