By: Kurt Snyder
When Victor Martinez tore his ACL prior to the 2012 season, it was a major blow to the Tigers’ championship dreams.
It was what we know today as the event that triggered the ultimate panic move as Illitch engineered the signing of Prince Fielder. The ‘win now’ approach was officially in full swing.
In the short-term, the move was hard to argue with. Prince didn’t have his best season, but he replaced VMart’s production enough for the Tigers to make a trip to the World Series.
In the spring of 2013, Martinez returned. But he was a shell of the man we signed as a much coveted free agent. It took what seemed like forever for Martinez to warm up and really contribute offensively. Other injuries along the way steered him off course as well. And even with all of that, it was almost miraculous how he was able hit .301 and knock in 80+ runs.
By the last month of the season, the Tigers finally had their fearsome threesome, who they figured would eventually lead them to a championship. But as luck would have it, Cabrera’s injuries took the starch out of the offense, and Prince was nowhere to be found to fill the gap. But going there again is way too painful to rehash even one more time.
Let’s focus on Victor and keep in mind how difficult it was for him to come back and regain his stroke after a year off. He has always been a gifted hitter, but extended time off can rust even the most priceless of metals.
It’s for this reason that we will have to have extreme patience with Jose Iglesias and any expectations we have for him at the plate, must be guarded. Now of course, the canvas is a lot smaller when it comes to Iglesias. Comparing these two guys as hitters is, well, something you should never do.
Victor Martinez is one of the best hitters in the game. And Iglesias? He’s not. But don’t for a minute think that I live in the camp with all the skeptical fans that say Iggy can’t hit at all. I don’t put him in the same company as a Andrew Romine or a Don Kelly. Those guys will give you very little at the plate. But Iggy, because he is so gifted athletically, will grow as a hitter. He has shown the ability to get on base and he has speed. He will get you hits with his legs. And I think he will be a threat at some point, but not right away.
What we have seen from him in the spring at shortstop is supremely encouraging, and that glove and athleticism will win games for the Tigers. Defense wins in just about every sport, and baseball is no different.
So all you folks out there who are already of the mind that Iggy can’t hit, well you are going to spend a fair amount of the first part of the season patting yourself on the back with a lot of “I told you so” talk. He is going to struggle to find it. He talked about it this week, how getting his timing back at the plate has been his biggest challenge.
If a hitter like Victor can struggle to get it back, you sure as heck can’t expect miracles from Iggy.
But I’m easy. I’m just excited to finally have this tremendous talent back on the field. Never mind for now what happens at the dish.