The Unconditional Release of Brandon Inge

Well, I’ve had a few days to mull this over…after the inevitable happened to (former) Tigers‘ third baseman and mainstay, Brandon Inge. I really don’t think any other player has had this love/hate relationship with fans as he does. Detroit faithful either love him, or call for his head on a platter. Very few seem to be in between. From a business standpoint, the Tigers organization had to do this, and with the majority of the fans leaning toward the ‘hate’ side, it was the right time. I give the Tigers credit, though, as they really gave him every chance this season to play and be effective. After going 2-20 (.100), it was apparent that he just wasn’t going to be the hitter he was during is All-Star year in 2009. In fact, he hasn’t done much since then. I also think that the Tigers are giving him a chance by releasing him. Giving him a chance to maybe catch lighting in a bottle somewhere else, and if that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be welcomed back into the organization in some capacity. I wrote a post back in February on why he’d make a fine Minor League coach, and would probably be in Toledo or West Michigan do to their proximity to Detroit, where Inge and his family live year round. That can be found here:

Now, it looks like he’ll get his chance as a member other of the Oakland Athletics, who reportedly signed him yesterday. He’ll be patrolling third base as usual, ironically replacing former Tiger and Whitecap Scott Sizemore, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. If things don’t work out for him playing ‘moneyball’ on Oakland, I’m still believe that Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch will find a place for him in the organization somewhere. He’s a great owner, who is very loyal to players loyal to his teams. And Inge is the longest tenured Tiger since Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

The future of Brandon Inge

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while, now, so I thought I might as well vent my feelings on the subject. Brandon Inge continues to be a sensitive topic for Detroit Tiger fans, and has become a player that some simply love, hate, or love to hate. I like Brandon Inge, I really do, and would like nothing more than to see him succeed and have a very productive MLB career. The fact is however, he batted .197 last season and is a career .235 hitter. So… I can understand why fans have a problem with him making $5.5 million a year this season, when it’s not even a ‘gimme’ that he’ll make the Major League roster. I think he will, though, and we’ll find out here in a few short weeks if all of the work he’s done in the offseason will pay off. The signing of Prince Fielder didn’t help Inge’s case, either, with Miguel Cabrera now being moved back to his old position at third. A bit of deja’ vu, as Inge went through this before when Cabrera was originally signed, and even back when the Tigers got Pudge Rodriquez who took his catching position. Tigers manager Jim Leyland really didn’t help matter either, by stating at the Prince press conference that Inge “isn’t the happiest camper”. I guess he could have put a positive spin on it, or not really mentioned Inge at all. All this does is give the media a chance to open up a Pandora’s Box of Inge bashing, without him even making a statement himself. I really think that I can step back and see both sides. I can see how fans may have a problem with Inge’s average and salary, but how can you blame a guy for just wanting to play? I don’t see what’s wrong with a guy stating that he wants to work hard enough and play well enough to earn a starting position. I would like to think that Cabrera will be the DH much of the time, with him being gradually inserted into the hot corner throughout the season. Inge’s defense is enough to at least earn him a spot on the bench, but if he can out-hit Don Kelly in spring training, he could see plenty of starts at third until Miggy gets used to third base again. Leyland stated that he wants Inge on the team, but he’ll have to accept the position as a reserve player, which isn’t bad considering he doesn’t have many options. It’s doubtful that any other team will pick him up with his salary, unless Detroit eats most of it. Last season he was demoted to Triple-A Toledo, and stated he didn’t want to play anywhere else but Detroit. When he was called back up to the Tigers and hit a home-run in his first at bat, you would have thought they won the Series. Despite all of the haters, many fans still like Inge, and would like to see him stay. Even GM Dave Dombrowski seems positive about Inge’s contribution to the Tigers in 2012 stating, “Probably the best thing is to let him come to spring training, let him play well, and let’s see what happens from there. He’s still an important part of our club at this point. ”

Now we come to the impass on how well the 2012 season goes for him, though. This is the last year of his contract, but even if he plays well enough, it’s doubtful that he’ll get more than a one year deal, and with Victor Martinez returning to the DH spot next season, the hot corner will be completely owned by Cabrera. They also have Nick Castellanos being groomed in the Minors and should be big league really in a few seasons, though they may move him to the outfield. With 2013 not looking like there will be a place for him, I do have a suggestion….I’d like to see Inge get into coaching. Hear me out…please. This is what Inge needs to do in 2012: work hard, don’t get caught by the press bad mouthing the organization, no matter how much he plays, or doesn’t play. The fact is, that Mike Illitch is one of the best owners in pro sports, and does a good job of taking care of players who are loyal to him. Look at all he’s done for some of the Red Wings alumni like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, and Chris Osgood. They all have pretty nice cushy jobs within the organization. Inge has been in Detroit longer than any other Tiger on the roster, and if he plays his cards right, could still be employed by the organization when his playing days are done. Granted he’s only 34, but is he starts coaching at 35-36, he could still be able to relate to the younger players. The fact that he’s played so many positions in at catcher, infield, and outfield, will also help his case. Just because he’s a career .235 hitter doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective hitting coach, either. Many players who don’t even have much of a Major League career have had success in coaching, including Leyland himself. I think Inge’s attitude would go long way in his coaching career, and could even lead to a manager job. Where else would I like to see him coach, also, than West Michigan? Inge lives in metro Detroit year round, and moving to Grand Rapids wouldn’t be much of a change for him. He’s also one of the most popular players to ever play for the Whitecaps and the crowds at Fifth Third Ballpark are riddled with Inge jerseys/shirts (though Brennan Boesch is starting to give him a run for his money). He also was part of the inaugural class of the Whitecaps Hall of Fame. Inge has only good things to say about his time in West Michigan, too. During a rehab game in 2010 he stated to the Grand Rapids Press, “I love it here, I really do. It’s kind of the starting point for me. This was the first full season I had in the Minor Leagues. This place produces great ball players, and it’s the first place you go to where you have larger crowds. People are very loyal here-the most loyal I’ve ever seen.” It seems like the Whitecaps are a perfect fit for Inge’s post-playing career. His alpha and omega….

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Below’s Above Average Debut; Cruz Cruises Across The Field

Duane Below makes MLB debut with the Tigers

Duane Below with the Whitecaps in 2007

Everyone loves a ‘local boy makes good’ story, so this should make some readers ecstatic. Britton, Michigan native Duane Below made his Major League debut Wednesday night against the Oakland A’s at Comerica Park, about an hour away from his home town. The Tigers lost 7-5, but Below pitched well in his first game and gave his team a chance to win. He threw five innings, giving up three runs on five hits, but only one run was earned. He also had two strike outs in the game. Below seemed pleased with his performance, though.

“It’s nice, it’s exciting,” Below told “[I was] just trying to continue to feel it out and feel what I have to do to get better. I’m still kind of nervous a little bit, I’m still excited, not sure how to take it, because it’s still settling in. It’s a dream. Hopefully I can continue to stay here and help the team win.”

I love it when players sound like little kids when their dreams come true. We were lucky enough to see Below pitch when he was with the Whitecaps back in 2007. The game was a sell-out at the time, with a local boy on the mound, and the ‘Caps picking up an 8-4 win over visiting Fort Wayne. Below also pitched five innings in that game and gave up one run. He posted a 2.97 ERA with West Michigan in 2007, and had a record of 13-5. He was named the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the Whitecaps Pitcher of the Year after leading the Midwest League in strikeouts with 160 in 2007. I was able to scrounge up a couple of pics from that game before my MLBlog days, but nothing real good of Below.

West Michigan beats Fort Wayne 8-4 with Duane Below on the mound

Cruz traded to Kansas City Royals

Now-former Whitecaps pitcher Antonio Cruz was traded to the Kansas City Royals yesterday, in a deal that brought infielder Wilson Betemit to the Tigers. Lucky for Cruz, the Whitecaps were hosting KC affiliate Kane County Cougars, so he just walked across the field to his new dugout and team. He first joined the ‘Caps as an 18-yr-old in 2010, going 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA during ten late season relief appearances. This season, the left-handed hurler was 2-6 with a 3.11 ERA. At the beginning of the season he was a starter, but was moved to the bullpen to limit his innings pitched.

With the acquisition of Betemit, former Whitecap and Tigers staple third baseman Brandon Inge has been designated for assignment and has reported to the Triple A Toledo MudHens. He needs to clear waivers next Monday, but Inge can’t really picture himself playing anywhere but Detroit.

“I could’ve made the decision not to accept the assignment, and maybe get picked up by another team,” Inge stated. “But i live here, my kids go to school around here, I’ve made this home. I still feel, no matter what happens–and no matter what will ever happen–that this is home for me. I’ve spent so many years here, and still plan on spending a lot more here. Everyone goes through rough patches in their career. This is definitely on of them. But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and I opted not to push them into making a decision where they could release me.”

Inge is a fan favorite, and one of my favorites, but this had to be done. I wish him the best, and hope he can turn things around.

Antonio Cruz traded to the Kansas City Royals

Below photo courtesy of Joel Dinda/mwlguide

Whitecaps game photo property of M.I.B.

Cruz photo courtesy of Emily Jones/MiLB

Inge Rehabs With Whitecaps

Tuesday night Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge found himself in familiar suroundings. Instead of Comerica Park in Detroit, Inge found himself at Fifth Third Field in Comstock Park, just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on a rahab assigment, after a pitch broke a finger on his left hand. Inge played his first season of professional baseball there as a catcher back in 1999, where he batted .244 with nine home runs, 46 RBI’s and 25 doubles. Inge seemed to have fond memories of his time in West Michigan.

“I love it here, I really do,” Inge told the Grand Rapids Press. “It’s kind of the starting point for me. This was the first full season I had in the minor leagues. This place produces great ballplayers, and it’s the first place you go to where you have larger crowds. People are very loyal here–the most loyal I’ve ever seen.”

In the game, Inge went 2-5 with two doubles and an RBI in a 7-6 loss to the Great Lakes Loons. His broken finger has seemed to healed nicely for him as well. After the game he stated:

“I feel suprisingly good, seeing as I don’t have any pain and I’m happy with where I am right now. In don’t like to sit on the DL very long. A broken bone is a broken bone, but this whole time, for some reason, it hasn’t felt as bad as other broken bones I’ve had.”

Inge is one of the most popular Whitecaps alumni, and was inducted into the ‘Caps inagural Hall of Fame. The Whitecaps also gave out 1,000 Inge bobbleheads back in June as a promotion. He spent about 20 minutes signing autographs before the game, and recieved a huge ovation from the rabid West Michigan crowd when introduced as the starting third baseman.

inge7.jpgPhotos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Whitecaps Update 4/10

capslogo.jpg‘Caps in Second(to last): With a record of 7-14 so far this young season, obviously West Michigan’s young roster is having some struggles. The Whitecaps finally broke out of thier offensive slump yesterday, though, beating the Lansing Lugnuts 7-2 on the back of 12 hits. They had scored just three runs in their previous five games. The losing streak even prompted manager Joe DePastino to call their hitting struggles ‘ugly’ earlier this week. Instead of having someone throw batting practice, he had the team use the pitching machine with some speed in order to get the team to shorten their strides and hit line drives up the middle. It seemed to have worked.

The bright spot so far in 2010 is the young pitching staff. This year’s rotation is sporting a solid 3.15 ERA with the bullben being 2-2  with a 2.83 ERA in the past 15 games. Starter Trevor Feeney leads the way with 24 strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched. Also throwing well are Jacob Turner (0-0, 1.00) and Giovani Soto (1-1, 2.63). Turner unfortunately was place on the DL Monday for stiffness in his right arm. He had only allowed one run and seven hits in his two starts.

ingebobble.jpg Inge Bobblehead: If you happen to be in the Grand Rapids area on May 7, stop into Fifth Third Ballpark for your free Brandon Inge bobblehead. The bobbling likeness of the former Whitecap and current Detroit Tiger will be given away to the first 1,000 fans through the gate.

Boesch MLB Debut: Outfielder Brennan Boesch recently made his Major League debut for the Tigers after Carlos Guillen was placed on the DL. In five game with the Tigers he is batting .278 with five hits, including three doubles and three RBI’s. He was a 3rd round pick of Detroit in the 2006 draft. Playing for the Whitecaps in 2007, he hit .267 with 19 doubles and 10 home runs. This kid definately has some power. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts and work on his fielding a bit to stay up at this level.

boesch2.jpgThis will be my last post for at least another week or so, as I’m leaving for my baseball trip to Iowa later today. Wish me a safe journey with no rainouts.

Inge photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Boesch photo courtesy of the Midwest League

Smile, You’re an All-Star

Monday night Tiger third baseman Brandon Inge forfilled a life-long dream of competing in a Home Run Derby. For all his efforts, he hit 0 home runs. That’s
allstarlogo.jpgright, the big goose-egg. Some came close, flying to the warning track, and his last attempt just floating foul. Despite being shut out, Brandon walked back to his teammates with a huge smile on his face. Why?-might you ask, would someone smile after not hitting at least one home run during a competion like this? The answer is easy. Brandon was doing what not enough players of even fans do-just having fun.

After a disappointing season last year, Inge is simply happy to be an All-Star. He’s happy to be recognized for his efforts this season and to be part of the festivities in St. Louis. So what if he didn’t hit a home run. He was there.

Maybe we all can learn a little bit from Inge’s reaction. After all, we really are all on the same team here. We’re baseball fans. I really don’t think the players view the rivalries the way the fans do. I don’t really think most players hate players from other teams. So tonight while watching the game, just sit back and enjoy it. After all, it’s for us, the fans, anyway. We don’t have to worry about winning and losing. And this fall, lets keep the same attitude about our team and the one’s they’re playing in the playoffs. Why hate anyone? Especially just because they support or play on a certain team. Just relax, have a beer, and keep the smile on your face. After all, you’re watching baseball.

Inge Earns Final 2009 All-Star Vote

Detroit Tigeringe.gif and former West Michigan Whitecap Brandon Inge has been voted into the All-Star game. He was voted in by the fans to the 33rd and final roster spot for the American League. Inge will also live a childhood dream of competing in the Home Run Derby. He stated he watched that more as a kid than the game itself. Being regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the business surely helped his cause, but slugging 19 home runs and 54 RBI’s may have convinced a few voters, too. During last night’s telecast versus the Indians, Inge came on and stated he was ‘floored’ by being voted in and thanked all of the fans who voted for him.

In 1999, however, Inge was a catcher for the Whitecaps. He was actually named the best defensive catcher in the Tigers system by Baseball America with a .900 fielding percentage, 703 put-outs and only five errors. At the plate he hit .244 with 54 runs, 86 hits, 25 doubles, nine home runs and 46 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He was noted as a team leader and gave plenty of free time to community appearances. Also this year, he was part of the Inaugural Class of the Whitecaps Hall of Fame.

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps