Riley Greene Injury Gives Tigers an Alibi: Can Detroit Tigers Continue Without Their Star Player?

Stress fracture or stress reaction: who without a medical license knows the difference? Either way, there’s something wrong with Riley Greene, the Tigers outfielder who has already become fan favorite number one in Detroit.

Prior to the play which caused Greene to introduce his fibula to the outfield fence at Comerica Park, Greene was likely on his way to his first All-Star selection. More importantly, the Tigers were poking their way around the .500 mark and first place in the American League Central.

Being the top team in the AL Central is sort of like being the smartest student in a school of idiots. But, if the flag is there for the taking, why not reach for it? And manager A.J. Hinch, to his credit, has played to win as many games as he can, not bowing to sentimentality, nor foolish dalliances with young prospects.

The 2023 Tigers are not a good baseball team. It's not that they don’t play hard, or even have decent fundamentals. No, the reason the Tigers are mediocre is simple: the roster is very short on talent.

Greene is an exception. He’s a hitter with good hand-eye coordination, and he has something atypical of modern baseball: he can hit the ball to all fields. He also has a natural instinct to chase down and catch the baseball. He’s one of the most promising products of the Detroit farm system in the last two decades. But he’s only one ballplayer.

The injury to Greene has given the team cover. It’s already started, as the Tigers have lost four of the five games since Greene suffered the injury to his leg. The Detroit media is pushing the narrative of how badly the team will miss Greene. The fans will eat it up.

But Greene’s presence wouldn’t make winners out of the Tigers. He’ll be missed, but what’s the difference between a season without Greene and one with him? Maybe 4-5 wins? Either way, the Tigers, who have one of the worst run differentials in baseball, are a lousy team. So far, Hinch’s club has been lucky, that’s the only reason they sniffed the .500 mark as long as they did.

Longer term, Greene is an interesting asset. He could consistently hit .300, and he plays a plus-center field. But, there are also red flags. Greene runs on his heels. It’s an odd gait that makes his head bob up and down violently when he’s in stride. He’s also prone to swinging and missing. Most baseball folk don’t seem to give a damn when a batter strikes out, but Greene was on pace to strike out 200 times, which would set a Tigers franchise record.

I’ve never felt Greene would be a franchise centerpiece. He can be a good supporting player. He could prove me wrong and be a star. He certainly seems to be the type of player who could get hurt frequently (think Fred Lynn).

The Greene injury is unwelcome news of course. When it happened, the team was only one game behind the Twins in the loss column. But it also gives the team a convenient excuse for any further troubles on the scoreboard. Instead, it would be better if Greene was healthy and able to show the fans and the team what he can do in the big leagues.

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