By: Holly Horning
Not sure if I want to laugh or cry when I read the newspaper reports summarizing each Tiger game. Contained within each article, the writers always include “No injuries were reported.”
Do reporters for other teams feel compelled to write this, too? Why is this unique to our team? Why have we come to expect our players to get injured?
It’s really no secret. For the past 3 years, maybe more, the Tigers have had more than their share of injuries. And not just the typical stuff that is generally expected during the year. Significant and lingering injuries that have crippled the team and their chances for successful October baseball.
Miggy recently stated that he’s healthy for the first time in three years. THREE years! I don’t think I’m the only one alarmed that any team would allow a player of his stature (or contract) to remain hurt past one year. We watched Miggy play hurt – limping, unable to run and in pain – from 2013 through 2015.
And now we are finally, and thankfully, watching Victor Martinez once again crush the ball from the left side. After a year in which we watched him in tremendous pain at the plate and dragging his bad leg when he left the batter’s box.
While local media remained silent, the national media was all over this story and questioning why the Tigers would allow this painful exhibition to continue. This year, writers who were once quiet, now freely admit VMart was brought back much too early last year. A decision that in reality probably lengthened or terminated his ability to be a productive member of the team at all for 2015.
Sadly, it had to be left up to Mr. I who called the infamous “midnight meeting” which assured that Victor was finally put back on the DL. And that brings up the question as to why the Tigers management allowed visibly, and often significantly hurt players to continue playing. And not just during Ausmus’ years. Leyland’s, too.
Almost as significant, is the question concerning Victor’s first appearance back on the roster post-surgery in 2015. Someone had to sign off on his medical condition. And that’s a real reason for concern because everyone could see he was not ready.
For many, including myself, there has been an initial assumption that the medical/training/conditioning (MTC) staff has been largely to blame for the number of limping bodies on the field. But given Mr. I’s need to step in, combined with the knowledge that the MTC can only recommend and not authorize, could we be looking at this incorrectly?
Could the reasons for keeping significant injuries on the field be due to other forces – and rationales – at work?
Was it due to the desperate push for a ring? Due to the expensive contracts? Were players allowed to have total control over their playing decisions? Failed roster-building strategies? A GM who was running out of time? Or was it because there was no depth or anyone who could come up from AAA to cover for them?
Could it be a combination of some or all of these factors?
And this is where it gets tricky. We need to separate the stories and possible rationales of the number of injuries from those about keeping hurt players in the game.
There are reports that support the Tigers as being one of the most injury-riddled teams within the past couple years. The one most-read reports the frequency in which teams lose players due to injury. The Tigers don’t rank anywhere near the top in this one.
The other one centers around the actual number of injuries. And the Tigers are right there near the top. This means that the Tigers, in comparison with other teams, tend to use the DL much more sparingly than the majority of other organizations. And we need to ask why.
Al Avila has shown us that he’s a very different GM than his predecessor. And that is why it is important to watch how the health of the team is addressed this year. Will he handle injuries differently? Will he make sure that players who are having difficulty in the field are removed for rest and rehab? We need to wait and see.
The Tigers are incredibly fortunate to have a stable of expensive and superior talent. History-making talent. Shouldn’t it be expected that the best should have the top support and care? That the investment is protected? It will be interesting to see if Avila brings in a new perspective.
But in the meantime, I am crossing my fingers that I get to enjoy both Miggy and Martinez doing what they do best this year. Both of them together – and healthy – for the first time in three years.