By: Kurt Snyder
Tiger fans have been addicted to offense for years. But they may be kicking the habit. I think they always knew that offense wasn’t a drug that could keep them happy for long. Since the beginning of time, championship baseball has always been about pitching and defense.
But teams, especially the Tigers have been enamored with offense and power hitting; guys that hit the ball out of the park. And you have to hand it to Mike Illitch, who has invested heavily in offense and power hitters. It’s an exciting brand of baseball and it fills the seats; power and good starting pitching have indeed been their staples.
But you have to prevent runs as well. That’s when pitching steps in and that’s when defense reigns supreme, because even good pitching can be sabotaged by bad defense.
But there’s a new shortstop in town making a whole lot of noise. Ask any Tiger pitcher about Jose Iglesias and their response would surely begin with a wide grin.
Iglesias has been saving their butts. He shortens innings, he keeps pitch counts down and he helps his pitchers get back in the dugout before trouble rears its ugly head.
Tiger fans are discovering that defense of this level can be quite addictive. And this may be the best defensive team the Tigers have fielded in decades. Yep, decades; that’s what I said.
Upon the arrival of Iglesias, fans in Detroit, fixated on the almighty bat, could not get their arms around how Iggy, who will be hard pressed to ever hit more than a handful of homers and is mostly known offensively for his infield singles, could possibly be an upgrade over Jhonny Peralta. Well, kids, it ain’t even close.
But, I won’t deny how bad the move looked when Iggy got hurt. And when it was determined that he would miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season, that’s when the Tigers really heard it from their fans. Why didn’t they just keep Peralta, he at least could hit, he at least could play. All we got is damaged goods!
Well, Iggy was damaged goods. He struggled with those shins while he was still in Boston. But the injury was never thought of as anything but short-term. Well, that couldn’t have been further from the truth, now could it?
But aren’t you glad they didn’t discover those shin fractures in Boston? He would have never become a Tiger. The Red Sox would have the best shortstop in the game, not Detroit.
Oh you better believe it, Iggy is the best. Never have we seen this kind of grace, quickness, athleticism and creativity brought to the shortstop position.
And as much as fans may question his abilities at the plate, where does he always seem to be? On base. And he’s just one of the guys who has injected much-needed speed into the lineup, book ending the big hitters in the middle. It’s been a very disruptive group.
But it’s the defense that separates him. He is winning games with his glove, with his arm, with quickness and desire, and so far this season, even his bat.
His enthusiasm is infectious and he knows he’s good. He’s got that flare and relishes the opportunity to make a great play. When it comes right down to it, after a year off, Iggy is just giddy about being able to play again.
And as a Tiger fan, if you haven’t realized it yet, we are a far better team with him on the field. The importance of his presence is second only to Cabrera.
And Peralta? He looks just fine in St. Louis.