The Tigers soon will have to make a decision whether to put shortstop Jhonny Peralta on their postseason roster. It's a complicated decision. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
When asked recently in a radio interview about the possibility of suspended shortstop Jhonny Peralta making his postseason roster, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski was non-committal.
Recent offense woes by the Tigers, though, make you wonder if he should be. A 2-5 record to open the month, thanks to a distinct lack of consistent scoring, does not instill a great amount of confidence.
Yet September struggles aside, a look at the statistics provides an eye-opener: The Tigers scored just as many runs per game before Peralta’s suspension as they did after it: just a bit more than five per game.
So maybe they don’t need Peralta, after all.
In a vacuum, Peralta should make the Tigers’ postseason roster. He’ll have served his 50-game punishment and, so far as we know, has done nothing wrong in 2013. Coupling Peralta and Jose Iglesias as a bat-and-glove duo at shortstop gives Tigers manager Jim Leyland the opportunity to pick the player who fits a specific situation best.
Beyond that, who’s going to turn away an additional weapon in the lineup? In a year Prince Fielder hasn’t been hitting like himself and Miguel Cabrera has battled a host of injuries, playing one of the season’s best-hitting shortstops seems like a no brainer.
Oh, if only it were that easy.
Here’s only a partial list of items that have to be considered:
■ Can Peralta even come back in the same form? He’ll be coming off a 50-game suspension. With no minor-league season to join, options are limited for Peralta to get back up to game speed. If the Tigers could have cryogenically frozen him, well, maybe it would be different. But there just aren’t any guarantees he’ll return in the same form.
■ Are the Tigers willing to risk a public relations hit by playing Peralta? The Giants set a precedent in 2012 by leaving Melky Cabrera off their postseason roster. Because they still managed to win the World Series, there was no reason to second-guess the decision. Even though Peralta was suspended for an event that occurred before the 2013 season, playing Peralta would leave open the door for people to paint any Tigers’ postseason success as ill-gotten gains.
■ If the Tigers shake loose of their recent woes, what would Peralta do to the chemistry? Not the chemistry in the locker room, but the stuff on the field. This is a question of suddenly upsetting the routine that players had gotten used to for the past two months: their spot in the lineup, their teammates in the infield. Heck, who even gets the start for the Tigers? Peralta or Iglesias.
Even if Dombrowski is leaning strongly in one way, stating any decision in public right now would be a mistake. What would the Tigers do if they said that Peralta wouldn’t be back, only to see Cabrera or Iglesias shelved for the rest of the season with an injury?
What might be the deciding factor is how Peralta looks in the final week to 10 days before the playoffs begin. He’ll have just three regular-season games to prove he’s ready. If he looks like he could help, and if the Tigers don’t feel compelled by the Giants’ precedent, bringing Peralta along would be the best move.
If Peralta can play, he should be part of the roster. The playoffs are never a guarantee. A team owes itself and its fans the best possible chance at winning the World Series.
Peralta gives the Tigers the best chance at that.