Detroit has been a font of Venezuelan talent for years now; three intriguing cases for the Hall of Fame will arise in the near future; who’ll be the next of Luis Aparicio’s countrymen to join him in Cooperstown?
Victor Martinez is one of 9 Martinezes in MLB and one of 2 on the Detroit roster. But if you wanted one Martinez on your team, V-Mart is the man. After a down 2015, with just 11 homers, he has 14 before the All-Star break and the lifetime .303 man is at .319 on the season. Only future HOF Miguel Cabrera overshadows this man’s hitting accomplishments, because they often hit consecutively in the Tigers’ lineup.
As for Miggy, well, he can only pale in comparison to his recent self: he’s at .296 with 16 homers, which actually drags his lifetime .320 average down a bit. Amazing for someone with such a power stroke. Not quite at his Triple Crown peak of a few years ago, but not far from it, either. He’s one of 12 Cabreras on MLB rosters and a near-lock for Cooperstown, whenever he retires (he’s just 33).
Rounding out the Tigers’ troika of criollo greatness is none other than Francisco Rodriguez, who’s come back from a personal and professional downturn in New York to near-elite reliever status once again. 28 Ks in 26 innings for Frankie K, and 20 saves already in 29 appearances. Look for another 40-plus save season from Rodriguez who’s riding a streak of 38 and 44 for the past two seasons in Milwaukee. 19 more saves this year will put him at fourth on the all-time list, trailing only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. None of them are in the Hall yet, but Rivera and Hoffman are likely entries.
The Tigers are wondering what happened to once-wonderful Anibal Sanchez. The man from Maracay has been sent to the bullpen of late, his ERA hovers over 6.00, and in his last start Sunday he gave up two more home runs (on the first three batters) and took the loss; he’s 4-8 on the season.
Watching over his Venezuelan brethren is the Tigers’ first-base coach and 11-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time next January after retiring in 2012 from the Toronto Blue Jays at age 45. By my count, only one position player with 10 or more Gold Gloves has missed out on a plaque in upstate New York, and that’s Keith Hernandez. Omar padded his hit total to nearly 2900 by playing as long as he did, but he was a stellar shortstop.
Who’ll join Little Louie in Cooperstown. Miggy, Omar, K-Rod, or all three?