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100 greatest Tigers: #38 Placido Polanco

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Placido Polanco was an amazing player for the Detroit Tigers. Polanco could do almost anything with the bat and glove. The Tigers regretted letting him leave the franchise too soon. His departure demonstrated how valuable Polanco was to the Tigers. In the end, Polanco manned second base for Detroit over five seasons, hit .311, made an All Star team, won Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and ALCS MVP.

Polanco broke in with the Cardinals in 1998. He batted a solid .296 in five seasons before moving to Philadelphia for several seasons. The infielder hit .296, .289, .298, and .316 with the Phillies before the trade to Detroit. In June 2005, the Tigers traded reliever Ugueth Urbina for Polanco and a minor league infielder. Detroit stole Polanco from Philadelphia. In November 2005, Venezuelan police arrested Urbina for attempted murder. A court convicted the pitcher and he served nearly six years in prison.

Detroit’s new second baseman hit .338 over 86 games in 2005. The following season, he hit .295 and struck out just 27 times all season. The Tigers won the pennant with Polanco winning the ALCS MVP. He hit .412 in the ALDS against New York and then .529 with a 1.167 OPS in the Championship Series. However, Polanco slumped in the World Series going hitless in 17 at bats in the Cardinals five game victory.

Despite the tough World Series, Polanco peaked in his age 31 season. In 2007, the infielder batted .341 with 9 home runs, 67 RBI, .846 OPS, 105 runs, 200 hits, 36 doubles, and just 30 strikeouts compared to 37 walks. He made his first All Star team, won the Silver Slugger, and finished 17th in the MVP balloting. On top of this, Polanco notched his first Gold Glove with a record setting campaign. He set the mark for consecutive errorless games at second at 149, played the entire season without an error, surpassed the record for consecutive chances without an error, and was involved in 101 double plays.

The errorless streak ended in 2008. Polanco committed 8 errors in his age 32 season. He did not win the Gold Glove that year, but did hit .307, scored 90 runs, had 178 hits, 34 doubles, 8 home runs, 58 RBI, and .768 OPS. The following season, his power numbers increased to 10 home runs and 72 RBI, but his average dipped to .285. However, Polanco did win his second Gold Glove and received more MVP consideration.

Despite Polanco’s performance, the Tigers blew the division lead at season’s end and missed the postseason. In response, management decided to allow certain players, including their second baseman, to leave. Polanco returned to the Phillies. Meanwhile, the Tigers spent several seasons trying to replace their valuable second baseman. They finally succeeded when they reacquired Omar Infante in 2012.

“Polly” spent three more years in Philadelphia, made another All Star team, won his third Gold Glove, and finished his career in Florida in 2013. He hit .297 for his career, but .311 with the Tigers with a .773 OPS. On top of this, he performed at an All Star level defensively throughout his Detroit tenure. The 2006 ALCS MVP, Gold Glove second baseman, and .300 hitter helped the Tigers win many games from 2005-2009. Detroit did not realize it at the time, but Polanco proved very difficult to replace. As a result, his value to the Tigers organization is probably undervalued to this day.

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