While no announcement has been made official, it is appearing more and more likely that if the Detroit Tigers are going to reach the 2012 MLB Playoffs, they will have to do so without the services of Victor Martinez as the team’s primary designated hitter.
Entering play on Friday, the Tigers sit 2.5 games back of the American League Central leading Chicago White Sox, as well as just 1 game behind the two Amercian League Wild Card leaders from the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers have still underachieved this season, considering the money they spent this past offseason. Even with the addition of Prince Fielder, Detroit has struggled to make their way stop their division.
And now, Detroit will have to continue to fight for a postseason berth without one of their top hitters from last season. Martinez hit .330 with 103 RBI for Detroit in 2011. He was vital to the team reaching the postseason, and when he went down in the playoffs, that is when the Tigers began to struggle. Now, having lost Martinez prior to the start of this season, Detroit has struggled to replicate their success from a year ago.
After undergoing knee surgery, Martinez has missed all of the 2012 MLB season. And with time running out to have to be on the roster in order to play this postseason, Martinez still has not been cleared to even begin a running and conditioning program. That means that even if Detroit can fight hard enough to help the Tigers reach the playoffs, it appears as if they will be forced to go forward without Martinez in the lineup.
The Tigers had remained at least somewhat optimistic that Martinez may be able to return in September to help Detroit make a push. By adding his bat to an already potential dangerous lineup, Martinez may have been enough to get the Tigers to the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1934 and 1935. Without him in their lineup, Detroit should technically have enough to reach the postseason, but they have struggled to find that third bat to produce behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
But although the Tigers have made it clear that they are all-in for this season, they still have the likes of Martinez, Cabrera and Fielder under contract for at least the next couple of seasons. So while they would love to get the job done as early as this season and bring home the franchise’s first World Series since 1984, they may play things safe when it comes to Martinez and opt to not rush him back too soon and risk further injury.