Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Altogether Now: We're Sorry, Brandon!

I owe Brandon Inge an apology. But I'm hardly alone. I'd say there's about 200,000 others who ought to form a line and say, plainly, "I'm sorry." Inge could be adorned in a royal cloak and sitting in a baroque chair while we all did it, and that'd be totally appropriate.

Inge fell out of favor with me when the Tigers were wooing Pudge Rodriguez to catch. At the time, the Tigers were coming off that horrific 43-119 season. It was in January 2004, and Inge started mouthing off to reporters who bothered to ask for his opinion -- and those that didn't bother.

I can catch just as good as he can, Inge basically said. He was talking defense, of course, but because his bat was so weak at the time, his message got lost for an extreme lack of credibility. He came off, I thought, like a petulant child. He also indicated that he didn't want to do anything BUT catch, so...maybe Detroit wasn't the place for him.

Good riddance, I thought. And said.

Then Inge got shifted to third base, and it was as if the change in positions, the removal of the pressure to catch, was like a tonic for what ailed him at the plate. Gradually, Inge turned me. He went, in my eyes, from being a whiny, hitless baby to a very serviceable third baseman with some pop. In 2006, he's damn near up there as far as Most Valuable Tiger. He's turning himself into a fine third baseman -- maybe one of the top 10 in all of baseball -- and might hit 30 homeruns and drive in 90+ runs -- from the #9 spot in the batting order.

I apologize to both Inge the fielder (above) and Inge the hitter

It hasn't been talked about much, but Brandon Inge is one of the players currently carrying the Tigers on their backs. His BA, once in the low .200's, is now around .250. He's swinging with authority, and still playing some outstanding third base.

Last Friday night, in a tie game in the seventh inning against the Twins in Minnesota, there was a Twins runner on first and nobody out. Prototypical bunting situation. Sure enough, it gets laid down -- an above average bunt -- and Inge races to field it. Then, in a play so typical of these Tigers' confidence and aggressiveness, Inge shunned the safe out and rifled a strike to nail the runner at second base by half a slide. One out, man on first -- instead of the go-ahead run in scoring position. That's the kind of baseball play that wins you ballgames. Sure enough, the Tigers scored in the 10th inning for a 3-2 victory.

Sorry, Brandon.

Sorry for thinking you couldn't be an everyday third baseman. Sorry for thinking you were whining in early 2004, when all you were doing, I realize now, was showing confidence in your abilities. Sorry for thinking you'd never be able to swing a major league stick.

But instead of forgiving me and the others individually, maybe a mass act of forgiveness would be more appropriate. It'd take too long the other way, and we know you have some work yet to do.


Blogger Lee Panas said...

I always got a kick out of Inge's cockiness his first couple of years. I also thought he could be a good defensive player but never thought he would hit well enough. He's turned out to be an excellent all around player.

10:23 AM  

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