About a decade ago, the next big thing for the Tigers organization could be found in the middle infield. A pair of kids had come up through the minor league ranks and were poised to take the next step to the major league level. At least that's the way it seemed at the time, when admittedly I did not follow baseball with the same methods or attention I do today.
Those players were, of course, shortstop Omar Infante and second baseman Ramon Santiago. In 2002, when they made their MLB debut, Santiago was age 22 and Infante just 20. Before the 2002 season, Infante was ranked as the 95th best prospect by Baseball America. Before 2001, Santiago had been in that 95 spot.
After making their MLB debuts in 2002, the pair had the opportunity to start beside each other in 2003. You can guess how that went. Infante batted .222 with a .536 OPS. Santiago fared slightly better: .225 with a 576 OPS. That was the end of the experiment.
A season later, Carlos Guillen was manning shortstop for Detroit, while Santiago was shipped off to the Seattle organization. Infante, meanwhile, moved to second base. Later, Santiago returned to the Tigers, but that was right before Infante got shipped off to the Cubs. Inexplicably, Infante went on to become an All-Star, and some fans have gnashed teeth ever since.
Do the Tigers, Santiago and Infante all get a chance at a do-over?
The Florida Marlins, who Infante plays for today, are rumored to be making pretty much everyone available. Big investment, big failure there. Whoops. Well, I'm sure it was fun while it lasted. In any case, USA Today's Bob Nightengale had this gem to report:
Infante has played in 81 games this year, and is batting .283 with .308 on-base percentage and .446 slugging. That puts Infante's OPS better than .750 again. That makes the fourth time in five years he's been above that mark. At this point, you have to admit it's a pretty big upgrade over the continued black hole that Detroit has at second base. On top of that, Infante has pretty consistently been above average by both Defensive Runs Saved or Ultimate Zone Rating. The fans seemed to rate him fine, too.
Put it all together, and I'd be happy to see Omar Infante return to Detroit, especially compared to some of the names that have been batted around.
What about you?