Friday, August 19, 2011

Martinez Everything Tigers Thought He Would Be (And More and Less)

He can't run, he can't throw. He doesn't hit with any authoritative power (anymore).

All Victor Martinez does, is beat you.

Yes, I've shamelessly lifted from the old quote uttered by manager Leo Durocher, about the pesky second baseman Eddie Stanky, circa the 1950s.

To think there was a time when some in the Tigers fanbase wanted the team to sign slugger Adam Dunn instead of Martinez, back when both free agents were available for suitors.

It sounds ludicrous, but here we are approaching late-August and Tigers C/DH Martinez is literally hitting twice of what Dunn has managed for the White Sox.

Dunn continues to wallow in the .160s, while Martinez hovers in the .320s for the Tigers.

Martinez is as slow as molasses running uphill. He can't really catch now, thanks to his achy knee. And even when he could catch, his throwing arm left a lot to be desired.

He only has seven home runs, where some of us expected more like 15-20, at least.

But oh, that batting average. And that good batting eye. And the lack of propensity to strike out or to look foolish or to be impatient at the plate.

All Martinez does, is come through in the clutch, with men in scoring position. Time and time again.

It's why he's closing in on 70 RBI with those seven measly homers. Martinez can't run, so triples are out of the question---but doubles have been few and far between, too.

That's OK; Martinez just goes with the pitch and slaps base hits between the infielders and outfielders, taking whatever the pitcher gives him.

What a joy it's been to watch "V-Mart," as the cool people call him, play as a Tiger on an everyday basis.

You never really can get a good feel for a guy until you see him play day in, day out, for your team. As much as I saw Martinez when he was with the Indians, I wasn't able to appreciate him like I can now.

He's fit into that no. 5 slot, behind Miguel Cabrera, like a baseball glove.

Which is ironic, because Martinez rarely wears one of those anymore.

The Tigers didn't sign him to catch, of course. They already have the young, seemingly indestructible Alex Avila for that. It was understood by both parties---the Tigers and Martinez---that the role would be that of mostly DH with some catching sprinkled in. That, and a smidgen of first base.

But now Martinez strictly bats, as his knee continues to give him trouble. Late in games, it won't be shocking to see him lifted for a pinch runner, especially in tight ballgames with the Tigers behind. It happened the other night against the Twins, which was a good call even though Martinez's spot in the order came up in the ninth inning and Victor wasn't there to man it.

Martinez strictly bats nowadays, which works out well, because he's pretty damn good at it.

There is a lot of talk about Justin Verlander being the team's MVP, and maybe even the MVP of the entire league. Understood. But where would the Tigers be without Martinez's .320+ batting average and plethora of clutch hits?

Victor Martinez has been everything the Tigers envisioned when they signed him last winter. Actually, he's been less, in a way; he can't catch at all now.

Even Avila would say, "Who cares?"


Blogger xman said...

V-Mart has been nothing short of wonderful, if for no other reason, than he's forced teams to pitch to Cabby. He, along with Avila's amazing hit & catch daily performance, is among the major reasons the Tigers are in 1st.
All that said, I have no doubt he's going to be Carlos Guillen or worse by year four of his deal. Four years is a long time when he's already broken down.

9:35 AM  

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