I was able to hold off on three prior attempts to write about the incredibly annoying Brandon Inge but I have failed miserably at holding off on a fourth attempt. Inge has whined and sulked his way from the New Year all the way through spring training disgruntling even his most avid supporters. The Detroit Tigers blogosphere has previously addressed this topic en mass and I probably don't have a whole lot to add that hasn't already been said in one form or another. Jim Leyland has done his best to quash the situation by saying things like, “His attitude is tremendous. Our relationship is tremendous. He'll leave camp happier and a bit more at ease, and he deserves that." I appreciate what Leyland is trying to do here but I cry “foul.” The Tigers are days away from starting the season and this is what Inge had to say about his good fortune at being named a starter for the first two weeks of the season due to Curtis Granderson’s broken hand, “I'm glad I'm playing, but it's for two weeks". That sentence would’ve been acceptable without the “but” and everything after it.
Inge has expressed his displeasure at being a back-up third baseman, back-up catcher and everything else involving the word “backup” all the while saying he just wants what’s best for the team. While the rest of the Tigers were absolutely ecstatic about the arrival of Miguel Cabrera, Inge has been a “wet blanket”. I have read on numerous occasions how Inge’s comments are understandable for a professional athlete because it’s in his nature to be ultra-competitive thus there’s no way he could or should be happy about losing his job. That’s fine. Inge doesn’t have to be happy about not starting. However, there is a huge difference between not being happy and letting everyone know it. I’m guessing if the majority of Americans expressed themselves in a similar way at their place of employment, they would be reprimanded at the very least and possibly fired. It is totally unprofessional to openly discuss your dissatisfaction at your company especially when said dissatisfaction is because the company is moving in a better direction at your expense. It becomes even more unprofessional when said company keeps paying you the money you were promised. There is nothing OK about how Inge has handled this situation. He didn’t lose his job. He still makes $6.2 million for one of the best baseball teams in the league. One thing is for certain, if you’re going to complain as much as Inge has, you better be frickin’ good—and Inge is not.
Despite Inge’s obvious displeasure, the Tigers have bent over backwards to accommodate his wishes. They’ve attempted to trade him on numerous occasions. They’ve tried him out at a number of positions to increase his chances of seeing the field. They’ve let him say things like, “I don’t want to catch” without telling him to shut up. I’m not sure what Inge thinks is fair treatment but the Tigers have been too understanding, in my opinion. Leyland gave a paradoxical quote that underscores just how understanding the Tigers have been. Leyland said, “Read the paper this morning. It’s obvious. He does not want to catch. I’m not going to force somebody to catch. He’s doing all the right things, saying all the right things. He’s a professional. He’s one of my favorites. I want him to play third base somewhere everyday. Is that going to happen? I have no clue.” Again, I appreciate Leyland’s intentions here but there are a number of things that speak to Inge’s unprofessionalism in that quote. First, Leyland says to read the paper to find out that its obvious that Inge doesn’t want to catch. Why is Inge taking his case to the media? Then, Leyland says that Inge is “doing all the right things, saying all the right things.” Huh? That’s not even remotely believable. Since when does, “I don’t want to catch” constitute saying and doing all the right things? Inge should feel fortunate that the Tigers don’t just dump him or trade him to a bottom-feeder. Does Inge really think there’s an abundance of MLB teams looking for a starting third baseman who carries around a .241 batting average?
Any knowledgeable baseball fan knew a long time ago that Inge was a liability in the Tigers lineup. He is lucky that the Tigers were willing to put up with his porous offense for as long as they did. He has “back-up” skills and it wasn’t until last December that the Tigers addressed his deficiencies by bringing in Cabrera. Inge is not a man with leverage. He is a terrible hitter by almost any measure. There is no hiding his 85 OPS+ which is an appalling number at any position let alone a corner infield position. His career OBP is a putrid .304. His K to BB ratio is an abominable 3 to 1. He makes the occasional spectacular play in the field but there is no way his defense makes up for his wretched offense.
The biggest beef I have is Inge’s inability to keep his negative comments to himself. He has to know that Cabrera is one of the best things to happen to the Tigers in decades. Inge gets paid to be a good teammate and perform when called upon. Nowhere in his contract does it state that he is to be a starter. I totally understand that nobody wants to take a diminished role but Inge won’t play for the Tigers forever. The team will explore trade options and he will likely play for a different team in the somewhat-near future. I fault Inge big-time for not seeing the big picture. There is pretty close to a 100% chance that Inge will get an opportunity to battle for a starting position sometime, somewhere in the future. In the intermediate, he is the #1 reserve at virtually every position which means he’ll get his fair share of at-bats. The fact that Inge will be the Opening Day-starter in centerfield is proof of that. I just wish he could appreciate the opportunity rather than take it for granted. Maybe next time he can simply say, “I’m glad I’m playing” and save the “but” for an ungrateful clown in another city.