By: Kurt Snyder
Last spring, there were two things the Tigers needed to do, without question, to compete for another division title. First, they needed to bolster their bullpen; the deficiencies were obvious. We could not go into another season knowing the bullpen could potentially keep us from a championship. We had been burned before, so we all figured we would finally learn. Well, we know what has transpired with that one. It’s part of the reason (maybe) that Dave Dombrowski now works for the Boston Red Sox.
But one of our readers, Frankie, brought to our attention something about the Tigers that bothers him. And it had to do with the other move we all knew the Tigers had to make last spring, and that was to re-sign Victor Martinez. There wasn’t a soul in this town that didn’t believe we had a choice. I, for one, fell into that category. I felt VMart was too critical to the lineup and we could not afford to let him walk.
But, Frankie brings up an interesting point. There are very few teams in baseball who have full-time DH’s. Three come to mind for me; VMart, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. The biggest question is how much do full-time designated hitters restrict your lineup, limit your choices, and in essence, handicap your team?
Well, let’s look at the Tigers. In the spring, VMart was coming off the best year of his career. He wanted to return to Detroit. Mike Ilitch loved him and wanted him back just as much, so a deal got done and we were all satisfied that the team did what needed to be done. It was a must in our minds.
But Victor spent the first half of the season recovering from knee surgery and really has supported the argument of fans on the other side of the coin who thought it was a risk signing him until he was almost 40, given the continued risk of injury.
But we are talking about the Detroit Tigers here and aren’t the Tigers one of the worst candidates for a full-time designated hitter? Just now, Victor has gotten healthy enough to begin spelling Cabrera at first when the need arises, which if you really analyze the need, it should probably be at least once a week.
Cabrera needs to DH more. Cabrera needs to come off the field more. If we are ever going to win a world title while we have the best hitter on the planet, his body needs to be preserved. So this is Frankie’s point, and it’s a valid one. Victor Martinez may be keeping Miguel Cabrera from staying healthy, because Miggy gets so little rest.
Of course, it’s a tremendously easy argument to make in a year that VMart has been fighting injuries for much of the season, after having his best season in 2014. Quite easy, in hindsight.
But the argument is very sound. The Tigers’ one common thread riding shotgun next to bullpen weakness, has been injuries to Miguel Cabrera; and having a full-time DH who rarely is able to help get him off the field for a night may be the difference.
Victor Martinez may continue to decline and we may have seen a 2014 season that we will never see again. So, next year, near the top of the new manager’s list should be finding a way to DH Victor less and DH Cabrera more, so Miggy is left standing at the end of the year, ready to let it all hang out in the playoffs.