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Popular or Not, the Detroit Tigers Need Jhonny Peralta Come Playoff Time

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COMMENTARY | It came as no surprise Aug. 5 when Major League Baseball announced Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta was among the 13 suspended players linked to the Biogenesis clinic. Peralta has long been linked with the lab, and the Tigers even made a move to acquire his replacement -- Jose Iglesias -- a week before MLB suspended him.

Now that we know Peralta will be out for the next 50 games, the attention turns to whether or not the Tigers should consider bringing him back. While it may seem like an easy decision to tell an admitted cheater to stay away, if the Tigers are serious about competing for a championship, Peralta will be on the playoff roster.

Day in and day out, the Tigers' lineup won't miss Peralta much over the next 50 games. Iglesias is a much better defender, and the rest of the offense is potent enough to put runs on the board. However, Peralta has been one of the most feared shortstops in baseball this year when at the plate, and that may come in handy during the playoffs.

Peralta's suspension ends just days before the end of the regular season, meaning the Tigers could use him in the opening round. The Tigers will need a bat like Peralta's in the lineup in October, either in the starting lineup or at the very least to come off the bench in a pinch-hitter's role.

Currently, the bench doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers with names like Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago waiting in the wings, and Peralta would give manager Jim Leyland an option he doesn't currently have. With a combination of power and average, Peralta would be a huge asset on the bench.

As far as giving him a second chance to prove himself, the Tigers are notorious for giving players plenty of opportunities to show their worth. Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Jose Valverde and the newly promoted Jeremy Bonderman come to mind. Clearly, those cases were different than Peralta's, but the track record is there.

Peralta will have to do a lot of apologizing in the clubhouse to his teammates for letting them down and while he has already released a statement doing so publicly, he'll need to do more to earn their trust in the future. By all accounts, Peralta is well-liked in the clubhouse and if they were willing to forgive Miguel Cabrera's antics a few years ago, Peralta will at least be given the same chance to show he's changed.

Some fans will say they don't want a steroid user on the team and they can do it without him, but the minute one of the Tigers' middle infielders comes up short in an important moment during the playoffs, they'll wish Peralta was there.

It might be different if Peralta was the only player suspended Monday, but he is one of more than a dozen that got disciplined. Steroids are still a problem in baseball and until players and the organizations get completely serious about cleaning the game up, these sorts of things are going to continue to happen.

When his suspension is up, Peralta will have paid the price for his sins and while it may not be the most popular decision to bring him back, come October it would be a good one for the Tigers.

Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has followed the Detroit Tigers his entire life. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.

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