Getting injured is one of the unfortunate realities of a game that requires the ever aging individuals who play it, to trot out on a baseball field for almost 2/3 of a calender year. There are always nagging things, and like any other profession, just days when it is tough to put on the work uniform and give 100%. Most get through it, and sometimes a player might even have to take a few weeks off if it is a little more serious. There aren’t too many injuries more serious than the one suffered by Victor Martinez this past off-season. For an aging catcher, an ACL injury at this stage of his career is far from a good thing. It isn’t going to be an easy thing for him to come back from and be as productive as he has been.
It certainly doesn’t help the Tigers lineup either.
I am certainly not suggesting that the Tigers are glad that their 13M dollar designated hitter isn’t going to be in the lineup every day in 2012. After all, maybe for the first time since Tigers slugger
Miguel Cabrera came over here, there was a real legitimate threat hitting behind him.
Stay with me for a minute here though.
The reality of the Martinez injury situation is that it could make the Tigers better in the long run. I think it is fair to conclude that had Martinez not been injured enough to potentially miss the entire 2012 season, Prince Fielder would not be a Detroit Tiger right now. He would probably be donning the uniform of the Washington Nationals. With the Tigers facing a severe drop off in offensive production, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch got aggressive in finding someone who could handle the daunting task of replacing Martinez’ 2011 production.
Prince Fielder was the only one left on the market who could do so. At least free agent market anyway, and the only thing it cost the Tigers is money. To get a hitter to replace the quality of a Victor Martinez, it would of cost the Tigers their farm system on the trade market. So it was a positive that Prince Fielder was still available, if not a little lucky.
The signing of Prince Fielder has gotten Detroit fans about as excited as I have ever seen them. Maybe even more excited than before 2008, which hopefully the Tigers don’t repeat in terms of results. The collective drooling over the prospect of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder hitting back to back in the lineup could easily replace water levels lost in a river suffering from drought. I won’t say that Martinez’ contributions in 2011 will have been forgotten by the end of this year, we Tigers fans rarely forget our hero’s contributions in this town. But two weeks or so of the angst felt over the loss of Martinez, has been replaced by unbridled optimism and expectation.
I would suggest tempering the expectations to some extent however. I am not going to go into a big explanation of the actual wins being replaced, but at most, it is just a couple wins when you take out Martinez and insert Fielder. We also need to take into account that Prince is switching leagues. There is likely to be a small decline in his production from the National League, as we have seen so many suffer before when they make that transition. It’s natural. New parks, new pitchers to face. Some of that tide is stemmed from interleague play, but it’s not the same. Fielder has hit .269 against American League teams over his career by the way.
The Tigers, with or without Martinez, were somewhat expected to win the weak A.L. Central in 2012 regardless. It certainly would be much tougher without adding Fielder, but the expectation level was still there after having won the division last season by a comfortable margin. 2013 is when we could see how this injury to Martinez could have been a good thing. That is when Martinez would presumably return to the lineup and add yet another potent bat to the mix, and could potentially give the Tigers the most formidable offense in the league. The middle of the order in 2013 could be a monstrous task for any pitching staff.
I didn’t want Victor Martinez to get hurt, but these things occur, and it’s how organizations handle them that can determine their success. The result of losing Martinez turned out to be the signing of Prince Fielder, and starting as soon as next year, it could make the Tigers even better when Martinez returns to the lineup. I credit Tigers management for not hanging their heads like so many of the fans were doing, assuming the Tigers were going to be signing Carlos Pena or Johnny Damon to replace Martinez’ production. It just wouldn’t have been the same.
Our biggest worry when it comes to Martinez is hoping Victor can return to form in 2013. If not, we at least got someone else to help pick up the slack. Get better Victor, and hopefully when you return in 2013, the Tigers are going for their 3rd straight division crown and playoff appearance.