Monday, September 30, 2013

Gates Brown's Heroics in 1968 Forever Indelible in Tigers History

"Gator Brown," Jim Northrup once told me, "would have been the best DH in the league if he was born five years later than he was."

I could see that.

If ever a rule change seemed to be in the wheelhouse of one man, the American League's switch to the designated hitter in 1973 was Gates Brown's calling. But, as Northrup said, Brown was 34 years old by the time the DH was put in effect.

Brown was, indeed, the Tigers' first-ever DH when the team took on the Indians in Cleveland on April 7, 1973. says that Gates flied out to right field in that first at-bat as a DH. The first-ever hit by a Tigers DH would have to wait until the next day. Yes, Brown delivered it, as he followed his 0-for-4 Opening Day with a 2-for-3 afternoon.

But in 1974, the Tigers made Al Kaline their full-time DH, as No. 6 made his swan song through the AL in his 22nd and final season.

Brown retired after the 1975 season, 36 years old and spent. He had less than 50 at-bats in '75, a season in which the Tigers suffered through a 19-game losing streak and lost 102 games.

Brown was, in fact, tailored for the DH role, if only he'd been a few years younger, as Northrup said.

Gates, who passed away recently at age 74, was never a Gold Glove threat. He was a roly-poly, lumbering man whose skills defensively were average at best. But put a bat in his hands, and Brown struck fear into the opposition.

There was 1968, of course.

It was the year when the Tigers had magic pixie dust sprinkled on them. Time and again the Tigers came from behind to overwhelm the other guys. And on many occasions, it was Gates Brown who delivered the knock out punch, often in the Tigers' last at-bat.

Brown was the hero who came riding in to save the girl tied to the train tracks. The Tigers would be tied, or behind, in the ninth inning or beyond, and manager Mayo Smith would nod to Gates and no. 26 would pick up a bat, emerge from the dugout, and the Tiger Stadium crowd would go mad.

It started early in 1968, Gates' heroics.

In game two, on April 11, Brown pinch hit for pitcher Jon Warden and smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, snapping a 3-3 tie.

In retrospect, and to hear the old-timers tell it, Brown hit 15 pinch hit home runs in 1968, all to win games.

The truth is that Gates hit six homers in 92 at-bats in 1968, but only three were of the pinch-hit variety. But two of them did win games for Detroit. In an August doubleheader at home versus Boston, Gates won both games with walk-off hits---a pinch-hit home run in game one, and a base hit in the nightcap (he started that game) that capped a four-run ninth inning rally.

But it wasn't just with home runs that Brown rallied the Tigers in 1968. He did it with singles, he did it with doubles. Gates batted .370 in 1968, striking out just four times all year.

The role of the pinch-hitter might be one of the toughest in all of sports, especially if you subscribe to the theory that hitting a baseball is among the most difficult things to do, no matter the sport. Try doing it coming off cold from the bench, never knowing when your name will be called. In the aforementioned twinbill against the Red Sox, Brown wasn't brought into game one until the 14th inning. Yet he torched a home run.

Brown made pinch-hitting his claim to fame, once it was evident that he wouldn't be cracking the starting lineup consistently as a left fielder. There were too many good outfielders in Detroit during Gates' time (1963-75). Willie Horton, Northrup, Mickey Stanley and Al Kaline all log jammed the Tigers outfield in those days.

So the words "pinch-hitter extraordinaire" became Gates' tag. He is easily the most prolific in Tigers franchise history, and among the best in MLB history, when it comes to traipsing in from the bench to get a base hit in the late innings.

It may have awed us, Brown's feats of grandeur, but this is a man who told of playing minor league baseball in the early-1960s in the south and not being able to eat with his teammates, because of the color of his skin. So maybe grabbing a bat in the ninth inning of a tie game wasn't as big of a deal to him, as it was to us.

Gates is gone, and that 1968 Tigers team's roster of those still alive continues to shrink. We lost Northrup himself in 2011. Bill Freehan is in poor health, I'm told. Horton has had health issues in recent years as well.

So did Gates, truth be told. The last several years had not been kind to Brown, physically.

To bastardize a quote, God must have needed a pinch-hitter.

He now has one of the best ever.

Thank You! Burning Questions Are Next

To everyone who has stopped by this space every week to check out Monday Morning Manager, I thank you! It was another fun season, and boy did it go by quickly!

Next up: the playoffs, and that means---you guessed it---more Burning Questions!

Come back here the morning after every Tigers playoff game as I answer those BQs!

First edition: Sunday, October 5. See you then!!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 25

Last Week: 5-2
This Week:  at Min (9/23-25); at Mia (9/27-29)

So, What Happened?

The Tigers had a good week, but the Cleveland Indians played the Houston Astros, so the celebration in clinching the AL Central will have to come on the road, as the Tigers couldn't quite wrap things up before the final home stand of the year was complete.

The Tigers took five of seven games during the week, but the Indians swept the hapless Astros, four straight, from Thursday thru Sunday, thus not contributing to the whittling away of the Tigers' magic number, which this morning sits at two.

MMM can't write another word without mentioning Saturday's historic come-from-behind win, when the Tigers scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game before winning it in the 12th.

The comeback marked the first time in some 66 years (against the Washington Senators) that the Tigers scored six runs in the ninth inning to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The improbable win fittingly came on the night that the Tigers surpassed three million in attendance for the third straight year. But how many folks stuck around for the ninth inning heroics on Saturday?

MMM believes that, after spending money on tickets, parking, refreshments, etc., why on Earth not get your money's worth? Stay for the whole game! MMM thinks the only thing worse than spending all that money is to spend all that money and not see the biggest comeback at home in 66 years! Is avoiding some traffic worth it?

Victor Martinez caught another game as the Tigers tinker with getting his bat in the lineup should the team make the World Series and thus play three games in a National League park.

Jhonny Peralta worked out in left field last week in the Instructional League. He is eligible to play in this weekend's series in Miami to close out the season, after serving his 50-game suspension related to his involvement with the Biogenesis lab.

MMM wouldn't be surprised to see JP in left field in Game 1 of the ALDS, if the opposition throws a lefty.

Jose Iglesias is officially the team's starting shortstop, despite being hit on the hand with a pitch last week. The hand isn't broken, and it's just a matter of Jose dealing with the soreness.

Hero of the Week
Well, look who's back to being a .300 hitter.

Victor Martinez is hitting .303, with 81 RBI, as the season's final week is upon us. That is truly amazing.

V-Mart missed an entire season, then got off to a rocky start, his BA in the .230s as recently as mid-June.

What followed was one of the greatest individual comebacks in recent history.

Martinez started smoking the ball, and in the second half of the season his BA is actually higher than Miguel Cabrera's.

V-Mart was 10-for-24 last week with a homer and six RBI. He is positively on fire.

MMM is giving him the honors not only for what he did last week, but for how the week lifted him above .300 for the first time all season.

Honorable mentions: Prince Fielder (10 hits last week); Torii Hunter (nine hits); and Max Scherzer (20th victory on Friday night).

Goat of the Week
It got lost in the shuffle of a 5-2 week, but Austin Jackson scuffled.

A-Jax went 6-for-33 with eight strikeouts and scored just two runs. In a week where the Tigers offense did pretty good, the leadoff hitter didn't. But it shows the depth of the offense that it could survive a bad week from the leadoff guy and still win five games.

For all of his mechanics adjustments (losing the leg kick, etc), Jackson still strikes out far too often for a leadoff hitter (125 Ks in 528 AB). He has but eight stolen bases. Even on a team that isn't known for its small ball, this is a very low number for someone who bats first and has Jackson's speed.

MMM isn't angry with Jackson, but someone has to be the Goat, even in a good week, team-wise.

Under the Microscope
It's difficult not to place the aforementioned Jhonny Peralta under the scope.

Peralta's eligibility to return to the active roster begs all sorts of questions.

Will he be on the playoff roster? If so, who's the odd man out? Will he play left field, or start at shortstop and be replaced in the late innings by Iglesias? If he plays left field, will he still be lifted for defensive purposes in the late stages of close games? How is his timing at the plate? Can he return to form after just three tune-up games in Miami?

MMM is sure there are more questions related to Peralta.

The Tigers don't need distractions heading into the playoffs, but due to circumstances, Peralta provides one.

Upcoming: Twins, Marlins
After all the heartache the Minnesota Twins have put the Tigers through over the years, starting with the 1987 ALCS and more recently in 2006 and 2009, wouldn't it be nice if the Tigers could clinch the AL Central on the Twins' home field?

Even a lack of a swimming pool at Target Field shouldn't matter!

The Indians play the White Sox this week before ending the season against the Twins. It should be noted that the Indians have beaten the White Sox like a drum all year, so the Tigers' best bet to clinch in Minnesota is to win two games at Target Field.

The question in Minnesota is, will Ron Gardenhire still be the manager in 2014?

No manager in Twins history, save Tom Kelly, has done more winning and done more for the franchise than Gardenhire. But as we saw in Philadelphia (Charlie Manuel), all good things must end. It would be a shame if Gardenhire is let go after this season, but it may happen.

Tigers starters: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer.

The Miami Marlins are dreadful. Their new ballpark is like a library every night. The team lacks star power. And that's why they are closing in on 100 losses (they have 99).

The Marlins do have old friend Placido Polanco playing third base. But the 37-year-old is batting just .254 and is a shell of his former self.

The Tigers should thank the Marlins, however. After all, if it wasn't for Miami being in fire sale mode last year, the Tigers wouldn't have Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante on their roster.

MMM thinks the division will be wrapped up before the Tigers plane lands in Miami on Thursday, so the only intrigue should be related to Jhonny Peralta, and how the Tigers might set their rotation for the playoffs, as well as which team they will play in the ALDS.

Tigers starters: Rick Porcello, Sanchez, Verlander.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 24

Last Week: 4-2
This Week:  SEA (9/16-19); CWS (9/20-22)

So, What Happened?

The week began with the sky falling, apparently, but ended with it being partly cloudy, as it turns out.

After Monday night's loss to the Chicago White Sox and Chris Sale, the Tigers' lead in the AL Central had dipped to 4.5 games, where nine days ago it had been 8.5 games after two wins over the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians were (still are) charging, and the Tigers were lurching after a 16-2 win over the KC Royals on September 6 proved to be their only victory in six games.

The sky was falling!

MMM understands the uneasiness when an 8.5-game lead is cut in half in nine days, but with the Tigers starting pitching, it's difficult to fall apart.

Within 48 hours, the Tigers had beaten the White Sox twice, the Indians lost twice, and the lead was back to 6.5 games. It sits at five games this morning. The Indians swept the White Sox in four games in Chicago, and have now beaten the White Sox something like 44 consecutive times. And MMM is only slightly exaggerating.

Miguel Cabrera was kicked out of a game, mid-at-bat, in the first inning for the second time this season. He even holds records like that!

Max Scherzer is still stuck at 19 wins, as his run support has dried up. Alex Avila (gasp!) is heating up.

Hey, maybe the sky really IS falling!

No, that would only happen if Jim Leyland pinch runs for Prince Fielder, apparently. (BTW, MMM is OK with the decision not to pinch-run. Fielder wasn't in scoring position, and most players can score from first on a double with two outs, and Prince is one of them. The Royals just made a great play).

Hero of the Week
Hey, did someone tell Alex Avila that it's 2011?

MMM is thrilled to see the Tigers catcher perk up, and last week Avila did so to the tune of 6-for-17 (including 4-for-4 last Tuesday), with a pair of homers, both in Sunday's game, the latter of which was the game-winner in the eighth inning.

The strikeouts are still unsightly (100 in 297 at-bats) but the swing is getting back to that shorter, compact variety that helped AA produce an All-Star season two years ago.

A productive Avila makes the Tigers lineup all the more difficult to deal with, because Avila typically bats in the lower third, and if he's going good, suddenly the Tigers are ornery from one through nine.

MMM is still concerned that Avila may need to learn a new position in the next couple of years (LF?) because of all the physical abuse he takes behind the plate. But for now, it's lovely to see him look more like the hitter we all know he can be. Never before has a .222 BA been so good to see.

Honorable mentions: Prince Fielder (10 hits last week); Victor Martinez (nine hits); Rick Porcello (first career CG on Tuesday); and Doug Fister (7.2 scoreless innings but a loss on Saturday).

Goat of the Week
This may seem a bit punitive, but MMM is going with Drew Smyly.

Sorry, Drew, but in a 4-2 week it's hard to find a true Goat.

MMM selects Smyly because he let Scherzer's 20th win slip away on Sunday. A wild pitch enabled the Royals to score the tying run in the eighth inning. Yes, the Tigers won the game anyway, thanks to last week's Hero, Avila. That actually seems rather congruous to MMM.

Under the Microscope
Did you know that Miguel Cabrera hasn't had an RBI since September 7?

Just let that sink in for a bit.

MMM knows that Cabrera won't win his second straight Triple Crown, but the greater concern is, how is Miggy's health truly?

He seems to look a bit more nimble, but a 5-for-19, RBI-less week makes MMM wonder if Cabrera isn't still bothered by his hip and abdominal problems.

It might seem strange to put a player who is constantly in the spotlight Under the Microscope, but MMM has a feeling that lots of Tigers fans are with him on this one.

Upcoming: Mariners, White Sox
Question: what's the only thing better than seeing four home games with the Mariners on your schedule?

How about four home games with the Mariners in which Felix Hernandez pitches in none of them?

King Felix might be shut down the rest of the season due to an oblique strain, but there are also reports that he may be cleared to pitch Wednesday against the Tigers. So who knows?

Regardless, the Tigers should be licking their chops to play the Mariners, although any team can beat any other on any given night. But how about for four given nights? MMM will take the Tigers in three of those four nights.

The Mariners do present Raul Ibanez, who has a chance to hit more home runs in a season as a 41-year-old than anyone in history. Ibanez has 27 home runs this season. Ted Williams holds the record, with 29 in 1960.

Tigers starters: Porcello, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Fister.

If it seems like the Tigers play the White Sox on a weekly basis, it's almost true. A scheduling quirk has pitted the Tigers and Chisox against each other 16 times after the All-Star break.

So it's another week, another series against Chris Sale, Paul Konerko and company.

The White Sox have a shot at 100 losses, and haven't won a game since last Monday, when Sale beat Scherzer. That's six straight losses, and 91 for the season with 13 games to play. A 4-9 finish is certainly within the White Sox' grasp.

If things play out well for the Tigers, the weekend series with Chicago could feature the division-clinching game.

Tigers starters: Scherzer, Porcello, Sanchez.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!


Monday, September 09, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 23

Last Week: 2-4
This Week:  at CWS (9/9-11); KC (9/13-15)

So, What Happened?

MMM apologizes for no update last week. It was Labor Day and Mrs. MMM had some family time planned!

Now, on to Week 23's update...

It was a tough one for the Bengals. Two series losses, and what was once a very comfy 8.5 game lead in the division is now down to 5.5, thanks to those never-say-die Cleveland Indians, who were winning four in a row while the Tigers struggled against Boston and Kansas City. But the magic number for clinching is 15, so MMM urges against "panic in Detroit," as David Bowie once sang.

The Tigers have been brutal in Boston in recent years, so last week's 1-2 showing in Fenway Park was hardly a shocker, even though Detroit won the first game. In fact, FSD said that the Tigers have never won a series in Boston since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006. That's eight years of futility.

Then it was on to KC and another series loss but MMM is picking the Tigers to make the World Series.

MMM knows what you're all thinking, and some of it likely can't be printed here on a family blog.

The logic is this: the Tigers should steam roll to the World Series, as long as they don't have to play the Royals in the playoffs!


The Royals, who are 31-17 since the All-Star break, improved to 9-7 against the Tigers this season, doing what the Royals do: playing small ball. Except for Eric Hosmer, re-born after last year's sophomore year debacle. Hosmer played, as FSD's Rod Allen said, "big boy baseball." Hosmer, whose rebirth this year started not long after George Brett's brief stint as hitting coach began, thrashed the Tigers with extra base hits and homers all weekend.

In other news of the week, Andy Dirks and Omar Infante each had five hits in the Tigers' 16-2 win over the Royals on Friday. The Tigers as a team had 26 hits in the game, but then the bats slumbered the next two days. The 14-run win came on the heels of an ugly 16-run loss (20-4) to the Red Sox last Wednesday.

Justin Verlander continues to perplex, as he gave up a two-run homer to Salvador Perez on Saturday that was the difference maker.

Hot prospect Nick Castellanos got his first MLB hit, an infield single on Saturday. But MMM wants to know how that could be, since Nick was about to be called out on the bang-bang play, except that Hosmer couldn't hang on to the baseball. Shouldn't that be an error?


Hero of the Week
Omar Infante did something quite spectacular on Friday night.

He had five hits and six RBI (he came a whisker away from seven), which is Miguel Cabrera territory---except that not even Cabrera has done that. Infante's bid for a grand slam came inches away from happening. It took a video review to confirm that it was a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double.

Infante's season is another (*cough* V-Mart *cough*) that is getting lost in the Cabrera shuffle. But Omar's play has been nothing short of terrific all season. MMM wonders what this division  race would be like had Infante not missed over a month after being spiked by Colby Rasmus in Toronto in early July.

Infante's range defensively has saved more than a few runs, as well.

Last week Infante was 9-for-22 and lifted his BA to .325. He is a free agent after the season, and MMM scoffs at those who suggest that the Tigers might be interested in fellow free agent Robinson Cano this winter.

Why go after Cano when Infante is about the same age and would come much cheaper? Cano is a marvelous player, but MMM doesn't see where he is a distinct upgrade over Infante defensively.

Honorable mentions: Dirks, who is perking up at just the right time; Austin Jackson (10 hits last week); and Doug Fister (scoreless outing in Boston last Monday).

Goat of the Week
This space is a tough love thing for MMM. It is largely based on numbers, not at all on any ax MMM has to grind. Let's face it: GotW is a "what have you done for me lately" thing.

So it is with that disclaimer that MMM names Torii Hunter as last week's Goat.

Hunter had a 4-for-24 snoozer, and generally didn't do anything to really help the cause last week.

His BA, which has been healthily over .300 for most of the season, flew below that mark for the first time in forever, it seems (.298).

Hunter is 38, so naturally MMM wonders if the age factor, combined with the timing of this slump (late in the year), are merely coincidence or if they feed off each other.

Regardless, Torii is cited. Sorry. Nothing personal, Mr. Big Smile.

Under the Microscope
OK, back to Mr. Hunter.

MMM doesn't want to come off like Chicken Little here, but Hunter hasn't slumped this badly all season, and now in September, he's in a 6-for-37 valley.

It's the timing of the slump, plus Hunter's age, that makes MMM think it's time to put Torii UtM.

Now, Hunter is a veteran and he knows how these things go. He has been in slumps before. And Hunter has never played in a World Series, so there is added motivation. MMM thinks Torii will figure things out, but it is a little disconcerting, which is why UtM is a category here.

The concern is also from a pure baseball sense. The Tigers offense doesn't hum along if the no. 2 hitter is scuffling.

Let's hope this is just a rough 10-game stretch for Hunter, and nothing more.

Upcoming: White Sox, Royals
Max Scherzer's 20th win still beckons.

Mad Max makes a third try at number 20 when he goes up against Chris Sale and the White Sox on Monday.

But this game is bigger than whether Scherzer will win his 20th victory.

Again, not panic time, but a win to start the White Sox series would be lovely, coming off a 2-4 week and with the Indians starting to think that miracles can happen.

The Tribe has shaved three games off the Tigers lead since a week ago Saturday. That's not a good trend for the Tigers.

That, plus the White Sox are sinking further and further in the Central Division's abyss. One-hundred losses is now back in play, thanks to their current 1-9 stretch. The Tigers must beat up on the Pale Hose this week.

Tigers starters: Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez.

After the White Sox, the Tigers return home to entertain those darn Royals.

Does MMM really need to say anything more about the Royals series this weekend?

With any luck, the Tigers can whittle their magic number to below double digits. That would set up a potential division-clinching win during next week's home stand.

Tigers starters against the Royals: Verlander, Fister, Scherzer.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week (promise)!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

V-Mart's Resurrection Nothing Short of Amazing

Rick Sutcliffe, the big right-handed pitcher of the 1980s, once spoke of winning the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, which he did in 1987.

“You know what that tells you? It tells you that you were terrible the year before.”

The Tigers’ Victor Martinez is running away with this year’s American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. If it’s anything less than unanimous, then they may as well stop giving out the thing.

But Martinez wasn’t terrible the year before this one—he didn’t have a year before this one.

Martinez—they call him V-Mart—is having one of the greatest seasons in recent Tigers history, but nobody outside of the team’s fan base knows about it. Hell, sometimes it seems like the folks who are Tigers fans don’t know about it—or at least, they’re not talking about it.

Martinez is playing on the same team as Miguel Cabrera, which this year is like being one of Jesus’ disciples. You kind of get lost in the shuffle.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Martinez is authoring a season that will look more impressive as it gets further in the past.

They say that hitting a baseball with any degree of success is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Try doing it after taking a year off.

Victor Martinez didn’t exactly take a year off, to be accurate. The year was ripped from him.

Let’s wind the clocks back to January, 2012.

The news slugged Tigers fans in the back of the neck. It was a rabbit punch—a cheap shot that no one saw coming.

The winter was in full swing, baseball’s spring training reporting dates still more than a month away. Hockey dominated the news, the Red Wings season about half finished. The Lions had been eliminated from the playoffs. The Pistons were again sunk into irrelevance, which was becoming another winter tradition.

Then the news came over today’s version of “the wire”—the Internet.

Victor Martinez had hurt himself. Badly. It was early, but things didn’t look so good. The sometimes catcher, mostly DH who batted .330 and had 103 RBI in 2011 had perhaps suffered a season-ending injury—some three months before the season even started.

He was working out and something went wrong, the stories that blazed through Twitter’s news feeds like a California brush fire, said.

It was something the matter with his knee.

I have always found it ironic that, despite some of the physical gyrations and unusual moves that athletes engage in during game play, it is sometimes the mundane, the routine, that fells them.

Norm Nixon, a leading point guard in the NBA in the late-1970s, early-1980s, popped his Achilles tendon while out for a jog. The injury pretty much ended Nixon’s career, which figured to have several years still left.

In a 1977 game, Bob Lanier, the Pistons’ Hall of Fame center, received a pass and went to bring the basketball toward his big body when an opposing player slapped at the ball, trying to knock it away. It was a typical defensive move that occurs dozens of times in any given NBA game. But this slap instead hit Lanier’s hand square, breaking it, and putting Big Bob out of action for weeks.

Mickey Mantle, cruising in for a “routine” fly ball in the 1951 World Series, tripped over an exposed drain pipe at Yankee Stadium and badly hurt his knee.

Al Kaline, after striking out in 1967, slammed his bat angrily into the rack and broke his finger. Kaline missed many crucial weeks of a heated pennant race, which the Tigers ultimately lost.

Now here was Victor Martinez, working out on his own in January, when his foot planted in the grass but had trouble unplanting. Martinez tore up a knee.

The word went across the Internet and Tigers fans swallowed back their hearts.

As the story developed, the news was the worst.

Martinez would need surgery and would miss most of, if not all of, the 2012 season. Just like that.

The mind-numbing news, coming from out of the blue in the depths of winter, was too much for Tigers fans to comprehend. It would have been bad enough if the injury occurred during a game. But it happened while Martinez was working out, by himself, spring training still more than a month hence.

Martinez did indeed miss all of the 2012 season, despite false glimmers of hope that he could make it back in time for a playoff push. Even though the Tigers signed Prince Fielder after Martinez hurt himself, the team was still in a dogfight with the Chicago White Sox for division supremacy—a race where Martinez’s involvement would likely have separated the Tigers from the White Sox long before late September.

The last thing Martinez needed in 2013 was a slow start. Surely the whispers would start: that at age 34, it was folly to think that the Tigers could expect anything near the Martinez of 2011, after he lost a year to injury.

Yet a slow start is exactly what happened. Martinez was batting in the low-.200s in May, when talk radio—that bastion of wisdom—was soiled with calls for the Tigers to bench Martinez. Some blowhards wanted V-Mart out of Detroit altogether.

I remember watching a game on television in June, when Martinez started to perk up a little bit. Still, his average was below .250. FSD analyst Rod Allen said, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Martinez was back around .300 by the end of the year.”

I thought Allen to be merely spewing out propaganda as a homer shill.

Well, look who was right, after all.

Martinez has lifted his batting average, which was like an anchor, all the way to “around .300,” just as Rod Allen prophesized.

Martinez’s recovery from an awful first two months, at age 34, especially considering that the resurrection came after losing an entire year to injury, when there were calls for his head in May, is nothing short of amazing.

Martinez is on pace to hit .300, drive in 80+ runs, and his bat is considered so valuable to the Tigers’ cause that the team is seriously considering playing him at catcher in World Series road games, where the designated hitter doesn’t exist.

This isn’t a comeback, it’s a reincarnation.

They shouldn’t call it the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. It should be renamed the Victor Martinez Trophy.

Like, right now.