Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez & Torii Hunter Offer Veteran Leadership to Club
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Every year, analysts and fans assume certain teams that have the most talent on paper will easily win 100-plus games and glide to a World Series victory only to watch that "stacked" team struggle and not even make the playoffs. Recent examples of this are the 2011 Boston Red Sox, 2012 Anaheim Angels and the 2008 Detroit Tigers.
When Victor Martinez went down for the year with an ACL injury and the Tigers went out and signed Prince Fielder, all of the fans (including myself) were giddy with the expectations that the Tigers would run away with an easy AL Central title in a watered down division.
As everyone knows now, it was a very close race and the Tigers only won their division because of Dave Dombrowski taking advantage of the Miami Marlins' fire sale by acquiring Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, as well as Miguel Cabrera going on a tear to win the Triple Crown.
The great thing about baseball is that the games are played on field and not on paper so nothing is ever guaranteed—especially not the playoffs. How else would you explain the Oakland A's beating out the Angels and the Texas Rangers to win the AL West title?
In my opinion, chemistry and that close bond a team has is the reason for winning.
A team can have all the talent in the world but if the players aren't playing for each other and are only caring about their own personal glory, then that team is sunk before they even take the field.
That is why veterans hold teams to together and understand the importance of chemistry. Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez are players that understand this concept and will ensure this season doesn't end off in disappointment.
It's obvious Hunter came to the Tigers because he's hungry for his first championship. When Hunter signed with the Tigers, he showed why he is so popular during his press conference with his outgoing personality. He also has shown he can still produce at the plate as well as cover ground in the outfield which is also the main reason why he was signed to a two-year deal.
At his two previous stops in Anaheim and Minnesota, Hunter was loved in the clubhouse by his managers and teammates. He is honest and always willing to help young players get accustomed to playing in the big leagues even if that means that the players could eventually take his job. This is a unique trait that many major league players don't have and the Tigers are lucky that they have Hunter to lead by example.
In my eyes, having Victor Martinez healthy and around the clubhouse every day will ensure that the Tigers live up to the offseason hype and don't coast through the middle of the regular season.
No one knows for sure if Martinez will be as good as he was before he got hurt but even an 80 percent healthy Martinez will be a very welcome relief to the team. He can keep pitchers honest being behind Fielder in the lineup and also will help take pitches and draw walks which was something this team missed last year.
He is the perfect definition of a "professional hitter."
Where will Tigers finish this year?
The biggest impact Martinez will make next year will be in the clubhouse where he can easily give advice younger players, and they will feel comfortable going to him to ask questions. I thought Alex Avila really missed him last year since Martinez used to be a catcher and was always in his ear offering advice on how to approach different batters and lineups.
Martinez's easy going attitude made sure that cliques didn't form and that everyone was on the same page, all while providing great protection for Cabrera. Now that Fielder is in Detroit, Martinez adds another solid bat to the lineup while also assisting Jim Leyland and the coaching staff by being a mentor, adviser, big brother and team player.
If you question the type of impact Martinez can have off the field then look at how much the Red Sox missed his clubhouse presence in 2011.
At the end of the day, Martinez and Hunter will be judged by how well they produce at the plate. But they have the personalities and veteran leadership to keep the locker room together and professional, which is what this team needs to accomplish their goal of being World Series champions.
Feel free to reach me on Twitter at @brettkaplan.
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