Detroit — The veteran and the replacement were side by side again Saturday night, playing a game of one-upmanship.
Johnny Peralta is the veteran who could be gone in 60 seconds — or after Major League Baseball and Alex Rodriquez can settle their differences. And when that happens, Jose Iglesias will slide into his spot at shortstop in less time than that.
Peralta batted sixth, Iglesias seventh Saturday night. The past and the future, back to back.
It is an awkward relationship for the Tigers. Peralta has been a spark for this year’s team, and has been part of two playoff teams here. He is an important part of the engine but this part has just about worn out.
If these are his final moments in Detroit, he is going out with a bang. Peralta popped a home run more than 420 feet to straight-away center field to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the second inning against the White Sox at Comerica Park.
Not to be outdone, Iglesias hit a long home run to left in the fourth to put the Tigers up three. Detroit beat Chicago, 3-0.
Peralta got to shake hands and smile with his teammates at least one more time. Hopefully he enjoyed the moment.
Meanwhile, Iglesias got to shake hands and celebrate with teammates for one of the first times in his Tigers career.
Commissioner Bud Selig already has determined Peralta’s fate. We just don’t know what it is, as D-day keeps being pushed back — now perhaps to Monday, although Fox Sports reported the Rodriguez suspension could be announced Sunday night. It also was reported that suspected players, including Peralta, have until 6 p.m. Sunday to notify baseball whether they plan to appeal or accept their suspensions.
Iglesias is his replacement, although both men say it is no big deal to play together, that this is part of the game. But there have to be some weird feelings, at least on Peralta’s part. He admits it’s awkward, but that is professional sports. When Peralta hit his bomb, Iglesias, the newcomer was the first to greet him.
With the uncertainty surrounding Peralta, the Tigers did what they had to do to ensure they keep humming toward a title — making the three-team trade that brought Iglesias to Detroit from Boston.
But with Peralta still on the team, this is kind of like going on a double date with your ex-wife and new girlfriend. Not just side by side in the lineup, Peralta and Iglesias also have been side by side in the field, at short and third.
That said, the Tigers need to be careful about getting rid of the old bag forever. The Tigers might need Peralta on the back end of this suspension, and in the postseason.
Peralta said he will talk to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski about an appeal. If I am Dombrowski, I would talk Peralta into serving his suspension and getting it out the way. That way, the Tigers have options at the back end. If Iglesias is humming with the glove and bat, yes, they can cast Peralta aside. But if Iglesias is all glove and no bat, they still can have Peralta around for the playoffs, in case the offense needs a punch.
Peralta, of course, lacks the speed and range of Iglesias, but he is not an embarrassment defensively. If Peralta gets to a ball, he becomes a vacuum.
And the man is on a roll with the bat.
That said, the newcomer also showed what he is capable of on that front Saturday night.
Fans pay tribute
Fans continue to pay tribute to James Van Horn, 66, the guy that screamed “Eat ’Em Up Tigers” for pocket change outside Comerica Park. A memorial of flowers, a stuffed Tiger and his funeral announcement was posted around a light post on the corner of Montcalm and Witherell.
He was killed July 27 by a hit-and-run driver, along with Michael Alston, 55, also known as Dreadlock Mike.
Most fans passed by the memorial without a glance. Others paid tribute by chanting his old chant.
Allen Martenson, of Kalamazoo, took a photo by the memorial.
“I loved the guy,” he said.
The interesting part about Van Horn is that many suburbanites say they don’t like coming downtown because of panhandlers. But they never viewed him as a panhandler. He was different. He entertained the crowd and got them ready for games.
“He was like a mascot,” Martenson said.