Sunday, March 30, 2008

You Heard It Here First: Verlander Hall Of Fame-Bound

This is how old Tigers ace Justin Verlander is: 25. This is what he’s done so far: won Rookie of the Year; pitched in a World Series; made an All-Star team; thrown a no-hitter.

Jim Bunning didn’t do all that. Mickey Lolich didn’t do all that. Denny McLain didn’t do all that. Jack Morris didn’t do all that (though he came close).

Want me to go back further?

George Mullin didn’t do all that. Hooks Dauss didn’t do all that. Tommy Bridges didn’t do all that. “Prince” Hal Newhouser didn’t do all that.

Justin Verlander is all that, and he’s 25.

Say hello to your next Tigers homegrown Hall of Famer.

Roll your eyes all you want. Mock my boosterism as nothing more than over-exuberant, hometown bias. Here, I’ll call the men in the white jackets myself, to save you the trouble. Guffaw from now until nightfall, for all I care.

Verlander, I’m telling you, will find himself enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. when all is said and done.

Don’t tell me about injuries and bad luck and flashes in the pan. Put a sock in it if you’re going to warn me of arms busting at the seams or flames burning out. I don’t want to have this conversation with you if you mean to dissuade me with sensible, even-handed talk. My mind’s made up. My decision is as final as an umpire’s, no matter how wrong he may be.

But I’m not wrong here, not on this one. Video replay will exonerate me, some 15 years from now, or more.

Not to mention how heartily I’ll be laughing at you as we watch Verlander step up to the podium in Cooperstown one August day, perhaps two decades from now, as he unfurls a speech from his breast pocket and starts in on the thanks and the memories.

I’ve already got one of your arguments countered.

Sophomore jinx? HA! Here’s what Verlander did in his rookie year of 2006: 17-9, 3.63 ERA, 186 IP, 124 strikeouts. And here’s what he did in 2007: 18-6, 3.66 ERA, 202 IP, 183 strikeouts. He gave up 187 hits in 2006, a little more than one per inning. Last year, Verlander surrendered but 181 hits, about 0.9 per inning.

The kid got better in his sophomore year.

Oh, and there was that no-hitter last June, against Milwaukee.

Hold your horses. I’m not using a no-hitter, by itself, to support my claim. Lots of mediocre, even bad, pitchers have rendered teams hitless. It’s one of the beauties of baseball, as far as I’m concerned – that the nondescript can rise up for one day and get all Cy Young-ish on us.

It’s how Verlander tossed his no-no that impressed me. No Tigers pitcher had thrown a no-hitter, at home, since Virgil Trucks did it in 1952. Not Bunning. Not Lolich. Not McLain. Not Morris. Others have done it to the Tigers in Detroit, though. Nolan Ryan and Steve Busby both got the Tigers at Tiger Stadium in 1973. Morris’s no-hitter, in Chicago in 1984, was no work of art. And Jack would be the first to agree with me on that. He walked six and threw a lot of pitches. I’ve seen him pitch many games more brilliantly that weren’t close to no-hitters, but they were classics because of his guts, his determination, and because of the situation.

Verlander showed me a lot of those things when he handcuffed the Brewers last June.

He was rarely in trouble. Yeah, he got a couple good defensive plays, but every pitcher gets those. He worked quickly, as is his trademark, not letting the enormity of the moment alter his approach. He went right after the Brewers, in complete control.

But it wasn’t just that he threw a no-hitter. Verlander is displaying now the kind of brazen, fearless competitive spirit that the great ones who’ve stood on a pitchers mound have shown throughout baseball history. He’s morphing into a blend of Morris, McLain, and Lolich – the three most recent Tigers pitching greats: Morris’s ferocity, McLain’s cockiness, and Lolich’s reliability.

As the Tigers stumbled their way through the 2006 World Series, I remember turning to one of my colleagues and gushing that, no matter the result, the exciting part was the experience the younger players were getting by having taken part in a championship series so early in their careers. Their baptism by fire would sure to pay off later, I reasoned. Verlander was one of the players I especially had in mind when I waxed philosophical about a dream season ending in a nightmare.

Verlander has a relatively easy, smooth pitching motion that doesn’t appear to be extra taxing on his powerful right arm. He’s a rhythm pitcher, and opposing batters try to disrupt him by stepping out of the batter’s box. Let ‘em try. He just stands there, on the mound, eyes boring into the hitter, calmly waiting for him to once again be ready.

There’s a certain nastiness that needs to show itself on the mound. It doesn’t have to extend any further than that, though some of the greats have been known to be grumpy bears on the day they pitched, from the moment they rolled out of bed. Bob Gibson, it was said, on his pitching days could part a room like Moses did the Red Sea, because he was so surly.

I’ve seen Verlander in the clubhouse before a game in which he’s scheduled to pitch, and there’s none of that Gibsonesque meanness. Instead, there’s looseness, joking, and a twinkle in the eye. Then he goes out there and hands you your rear end.

Justin Verlander is 25 years old. He’s 35-15, with over 300 strikeouts and a no-hitter in his first two seasons. And he’s just getting started.

Goodness gracious.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gonzalez's Rebuffing Best Rejection Tigers Ever Got

I remember being in my swimming pool when I heard the news on the radio, blaring from the patio.

"We like Juan. We want Juan to stay. We think we've made a very fair offer. The ball's in his court now."

Words to that effect came from the misguided lips of Tigers GM Randy Smith, who was explaining, in the summer of 2000, how the team was pushing hard to keep OF Juan Gonzalez in Detroit for many years to come. The Tigers had acquired Gonzalez, the enigmatic slugger and two-time AL MVP, from Texas in December 1999, knowing full well that he wasn't signed beyond the 2000 season. In return, the Tigers sent OF Gabe Kapler, IF/OF Frank Catalanotto, and P Justin Thompson to the Rangers.

Smith's courtship of Gonzalez was painful to watch. It seemed as if Smith was the only one who didn't know that Gonzalez had no intention of staying in Detroit beyond the one year. Then, as I listened incredulously in my pool that summer day in 2000, it was confirmed.

Smith, with the apparent blessing of owner Mike Ilitch, was dangling something like seven years and well over $100 million at Gonzalez. And Smith was genuinely hoping the moody, sour Gonzalez would take it.

The Tigers had just moved into Comerica Park for the 2000 season, and if you think it's a pitcher's park NOW, let me remind you that the original dimensions of CoPa were so brutally unfair to right-handed hitters as to be cruel. The left field line was nearly 350 feet away, and the left-center alley was about 400 feet from the batter's box. By the time Smith made his ridiculous offer, Lord knows how many of "Juan Gone's" would-be homeruns and doubles were caught by tickled outfielders. Those lost hits didn't do anything to lighten Gonzalez's mood.

And Smith wanted Gonzalez to shackle himself to baseball's Yosemite Park for seven years?

Well, Gonzalez rebuffed the Tigers and became a free agent, right on schedule. After managing just 22 HRs, 67 RBI and a .289 BA with the Tigers, Gonzalez became an Indian and did 35-140-.325 with the Tribe, playing in the much more realistic Jacobs Field.

Of course, Smith's ill-advised trade and subsequent failure to secure Gonzalez for the long term turned out just fine for the Tigers. That contract would have been the biggest albatross ever saddled on a big league team in baseball history. For Gonzalez turned out to be a fraud, an injury-riddled bad apple who'd already peaked, despite his last hurrah in 2001 with the Indians.

So news of Miguel Cabrera's new contract extension with the Tigers should be met with relief and assurances. Cabrera, just 24 (he turns 25 in April), is six years younger than Gonzalez was when Smith tossed all that dough at him. His best years are ahead of him, not behind. Plus, the team is a lot more attractive than it was when Gonzalez was here. The early-21st century Tigers were God awful, and no doubt Gonzalez saw that coming, too. Plus, the dimensions of CoPa have been drastically altered in left and left center. Look no further than Magglio Ordonez, or Gary Sheffield, to see that Comerica is no longer a barrier to high-octane offensive production for right-handed hitters.

All I know is, Mike Ilitch should thank God that Juan Gonzalez rejected the panderings of silly little Randy Smith back in 2000.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Horton Trade Still Curious After All These Years

When Tigers manager Ralph Houk made out his lineup card for Opening Day, 1977, there was a nod to history on it.

Batting cleanup was Willie Horton. Nothing strange there. But this was:

Horton LF

Willie had been the Tigers' designated hitter since 1974, when injuries and other players' youth shoved him out of playing in the field. But Houk had announced toward the end of spring training in '77, after some rumors to that effect, that Horton would jog out to left field, his old haunts, in front of the Tiger Stadium faithful.

According to, Horton saw little action in left, making just one putout. He went 1-for-4 at the plate.

Yet something was going wrong with Horton, and I'm going to ask him the next time I see him.

It wasn't the first time that Willie let his emotions get the best of him. In 1969, the year after the Tigers won the World Series, Horton got off to a slow start at the plate. The fans were turning on him. It got so bad that Horton ripped his uniform off in anger and dropped out of sight briefly for a day or so. I asked him about that years later, long after he retired. He confirmed it.

So Horton played Opening Day, but was out of the lineup for the next few games. It was reported that he was unhappy -- maybe with Houk, maybe with management. Nobody was certain.

Then, suddenly, Horton was gone, traded to the Texas Rangers for an average reliever named Steve Foucault, one-for-one.

Willie Horton for Steve Foucault??

It was true that Foucault was several years younger than the 34-year-old Horton, but it seemed like a bad deal for Detroit. After all, when you trade Willie Horton, you're not just trading a baseball player; you're trading an institution. Shouldn't that have been worth something to Tigers GM Jim Campbell?

I suspect that Campbell traded Horton to get rid of him, not all that concerned with what he got in return. Because if he exercised patience and his usual guile, Campbell almost certainly could have gotten more for Horton than Steve Freaking Foucault.

So here's my theory -- one that I plan on proposing to Horton.

Campbell traded Horton because either a) the Tigers were tired of his complaining, or b) Horton demanded a trade. And it didn't really matter where, or for who. Nobody gets traded in the days after Opening Day; it just doesn't happen.

Something went wrong, and fast, for Campbell to deal Horton so haphazardly.

At the risk of coming off uninformed here, I will confess to not reading Horton's biographies (there've been more than one), and so the reasons for the trade to Texas may be detailed in one of them. If so, then in the words of Gilda Radner's Emily Litella character, "Never mind."

But one way or another, I'd like to know.

Willie Horton for Steve Foucault, straight up.

Something's not right.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Baseball Season Too Long? Certainly Starting Too Early

Do we REALLY need to start the baseball season in March?

I'm as eager to see the Tigers as anyone, in what could be a very fun summer, but we've waited this long; another week wouldn't have killed us. Instead, you have the Red Sox and A's opening in Japan on TUESDAY, and the Tigers, along with just about everyone else, open on March 31.

And if you ARE going to start in March, then why the heck are the Tigers opening at home? One of those opening west coast trips, which I usually found annoying, would have been nice, if baseball's going to be so relentless in kicking things off so early.

Hey, do we even need 162 games? Would it be horrific to end things on September 21 and play the World Series before the trick-or-treaters prowl the streets?

When the Tigers won the Series in 1984, it was October 14. Now, that's not even halfway thru the championship series.

Granted, some of my crankiness has to do with the rough Michigan winter, which is showing no real signs of letting up. But even if it were 50 and sunny out, I'd say the same thing, honest. We don't need March baseball, other than for spring training. I'm sorry; I just don't think it's necessary.

The regular season does end September 28, so I'm sure that's one reason why MLB is starting so early. But I go back to the 162-game schedule. Too long? Start around April 5, 6, or 7. End no later than September 30.

Or here's another radical thought: DOUBLEHEADERS. And I don't mean those ridiculous day/night affairs. A good, old fashioned twin bill on Sunday afternoons. I know -- less concession money that way and less ticket revenue. The almighty dollar wins again. But more DHs -- and I don't mean designated hitters -- would help MLB pack its 162-game schedule within a decent time frame.

Spitting in the wind is what I'm doing. I'm aware of that. Not gonna stop me from venting, though.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lesson Hopefully Learned: Grilli Can't Let Fans Get To Him In 2008

New York has been known to swallow players whole. Some just can't handle the fish bowl, mainly because in New York, sometimes they reach into the fish bowl and dangle you, as you gasp for oxygen.

Ed Whitson comes to mind. The Yankees signed the 29-year-old righthander before the 1985 season, from the San Diego Padres. But things eventually got so bad for Whitson, totally vilified by the ravenous Yankees fans, that he was no longer deemed fit to start home games. He was gone by early 1986 -- literally driven out of town by the paying customers.

Jason Grilli flirted with a minor degree of Ed Whitson Disease last season in Detroit.

His ERA was curiously far higher at Comerica Park -- supposedly a pitcher's ballpark -- than on the road. He blew leads at home. He functioned as a gas can for opponents' rallies. And the more it went on, the more personal it got. The boobirds came out. Grilli's entrance to a game at CoPa was distinguishable -- even if you were in the washroom -- because of the distinct sounds of catcalls and epithets being hurled his way from the denizens.

Then Grilli got the gas can out again -- this time off the field. He went public with his feelings, and took the rancor to a higher, more personal level. He committed the cardinal sin of the harrassed ballplayer: giving his enemies even more fodder for their cannons.

It was wondered if Jason Grilli would ever be able to competently pitch again at Comerica Park -- as a member of the Tigers.

Grilli didn't always find the home white uniforms friendly in 2007

Things got better in the season's second half. Grilli pitched more like the guy who was a steady rock in the Tigers' bullpen in 2006. And, to be fair, it wasn't like he was the only relief pitcher who could be judged as a guilty party. The entire bullpen, just about, fell off from its 2006 pace -- a big reason why the Tigers watched October baseball at home.

Yet Grilli became the poster child for the bullpen's nonsense during the latter part of the season's first half. And he didn't handle it perfectly.

Now, Grilli is among a quartet of pitchers that manager Jim Leyland hopes can do, as a "committee" -- that lovely baseball word for when you don't have a stud -- what Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya cannot do while their elbows and shoulders and heads recover from injury.

Grilli, fellow righthander Zach Miner, and lefties Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay make up the quartet. Each pitched well at times in 2007. Seay was maybe the most consistent. So it's essential that each of them is squared away between the ears when the season begins.

Grilli, for his part, has already gone on record in defense of the bullpen -- himself included -- maintaining that the team will be just fine with the non-starting arms that the Tigers plan to employ. I hope he's right.

I also hope that he learned his lesson from last season. As bad as the treatment was that he received from the fans last year, it could have been far worse -- if his slump continued, or if he kept opening his yapper about the boobirds. Fortunately, neither happened, and things died down.

Very unlike what happened to Ed Whitson in New York in 1985.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Zumaya Must Accept That 100 mph Fastballs Are A Thing Of The Past

Joel Zumaya will never be the pitcher that he once was. You can mark my words. Put them in a time capsule if you'd like, with my name on it. Engrave it in stone, if you want -- again with me attributed. Tell everyone you know that I said it would be so.

Good thing that I have complete confidence in Tigers manager Jim Leyland, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, and GM Dave Dombrowski. They all know, I'm sure, that Zumaya -- the young fireballer with the propensity for curious injuries -- needs a head coach almost as much, if not more, than a rehab guy.

They say Zumaya -- out with a shoulder injury suffered last fall when some heavy boxes fell on it in California during another of that state's natural disasters -- won't be ready until mid-season, at the earliest. What we see when he comes back remains to be seen.

But what isn't a mystery -- again, mark my words -- is that Joel Zumaya won't be the 100 mph, flame-throwing stud that he was before all this injury nonsense started. He's going to have to reinvent himself somewhat, and that's not a bad thing. Maybe this will teach him more about the subtleties of pitching. He may not have to undergo the drastic transformation that Frank Tanana did, when Tanana had to switch from being the Angels' left-handed Nolan Ryan into a -- pardon the crudeness of this term -- junkballer, but Zoom-Zoom is going to lose something. Count on it. And how he responds to that is where the need for a mind coach comes into play.

I'm also troubled because of some comments Zumaya made before spring training started, when he declared to Tigers fans that his comeback from this latest injury was personal. He talked of throwing 100 mph again. He went on a cockeyed rant about it, truthfully. It was disturbing, and I hope someone slapped some sense into him after that.

Zumaya's explosive fastball sets up his nasty breaking stuff nicely, but he can still do that, pitching in the low-to-mid 90s. If his injury robs him of even the low-90s fastball, then he's going to have to develop another pitch. It may not come to that, but you can kiss 100 mph goodbye. And if he's hell-bent on doing that, then he'll indeed turn into Mark Fidrych, as my friend Big Al so often likes to remind us.

"Come on, we all know Zoom has a million dollar arm, and a 10 cent head. In June, Zumaya will be be riding a dirt bike, while playing Guitar Hero, in midst of moving his family, hear his elbow pop, and undergo Tommy John surgery in July. He's another Fidrych! FIDRYCH, I TELL YOU!"

But Fidrych flamed out simply because he couldn't overcome injuries. Zumaya, if he goes the same route, will have gotten there because he refused to acknowledge that he cannot be what he once was -- that he had to adapt and change his style. Not an easy thing for a young player to admit.

And that's what worries me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Long Before Crystal, Sparky Gave Selleck A Shot

He actually looked pretty darn good in the batter's box -- his lefthanded stance appearing competent and big league-like. And not like a pitcher with a bat. He looked position player-ish.

Actor Tom Selleck, dressed in the creamy whites of the Detroit Tigers, stood in against the Reds' Tim Layana in spring training, 1992 -- and I remember watching the at-bat. Perhaps on purpose, Selleck's appearance coincided with a rare spring TV game, beamed back to Detroit.

Layana didn't baby Selleck, and the 47-year-old Detroit native didn't go down easily. Selleck struck out, but not before fouling off several pitches -- much to the delight of the Lakeland crowd, especially the females, no doubt.

Selleck was preparing to shoot a baseball movie, and figured his hometown Tigers would be the most logical choice to hang out with as he got himself ready for the role. Selleck, as you recall, used to wear a Tigers cap religiously while playing in Magnum, PI. Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell even had bit roles in one episode, in their playing heyday.

And who can forget country singer Garth Brooks and his frequent flings in spring training, with a variety of clubs?

Tigers manager Sparky Anderson was more than happy to indulge Selleck, who was a lifelong fan of the team.

Thursday, actor Billy Crystal will suit up for the Yankees, playing in a spring training game. His appearance will come one day before his 60th birthday. Crystal, like Selleck, will get a chance to don the uniform of his boyhood team.

I have no problem with such stunts -- and let's face it, that's what it is -- in meaningless games. No harm, and the fans get a kick out of it. The chance of injury is slim.

Of course, just as Layana no doubt didn't want to be known as the pitcher who gave up a hit to a 47-year-old actor, whomever Crystal faces is sure to bear down as well. No Denny McLain-like grooves down the middle, as if Crystal was Mickey Mantle in 1968. Unlikely, anyway.

I had nearly forgotten about Selleck's celebrated at-bat until the news broke of Crystal's romp, which brought those Magnum memories back. Good memories, I might add.

Spring training can use something right about now -- with three weeks still remaining.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dodgers To Say Farewell To Vero Beach Soon

The Dodgers are leaving Vero Beach -- not that you care.

I'm not saying that you should, but maybe it would be nice if you did a little bit.

I'm biased here. I've been a fan of the Blue since the early-1970s, when I bought one of their team yearbooks at Tiger Stadium. I thought it was so cool that you could buy another team's yearbook at the old ballpark. So I bought the next few in succession, making sure that at least one trip to Tiger Stadium ended with me taking a Dodgers yearbook home with me.

Their yearbooks kind of sucked, though -- if you want to know the truth. The Tigers always put out first-class ones, and you'd think a team with the tradition the Dodgers have would be able to follow suit. But where the Tigers' yearbooks were on heavier stock and full of color photos, the Dodgers' version was more like a program -- thin paper and mostly black-and-white pics. There really was no comparison. But I bought them anyway, because I had adopted the Dodgers as my second-favorite team.

Dodgers fans watch their team at Holman Stadium in Vero Beach

It's not all that popular to be a Dodgers fan. I found out through the years that the team is hardly beloved. In fact, many folks flat out hate the Dodgers, though I'm not sure why. They haven't even won a playoff series since 1988, when they won the whole thing under Kirk Gibson's leadership. Ahh, there it is. You think the fans around Detroit are still smarting over Gibby leaving for LA as a free agent?

Anyhow, the Dodgers, after this spring, are ending their 50+ year relationship with Vero Beach as their spring training site. Next year they'll train in Arizona. They're not just relocating within Florida -- they're leaving the state entirely.

Dodgertown in Vero Beach is hallowed for many people. The players are revered down there like royalty. It's like Lakeland with the Tigers, but even more so. Dodgertown is like Little Los Angeles, in terms of how faithful the folks are to their Blue. And I've never been there, but then again, I've never been to London, yet I know that it rains there a lot. It's amazing what you can learn if you read.

I'm sure there are many heartbroken fans in Vero Beach, watching this camp with a much different eye, knowing it's the last one. I doubt too many of them will follow the team to Arizona in 2009.

The Dodgers say they made to move because of costs and wanting the team to train closer to California. Not sure why all of a sudden those are issues after all these decades, but there you have it. Certainly the willingness of their new spring home to build a new facility played into it.

The Tigers won't play the Dodgers anymore in spring training after this season, another casualty of the Blue moving westward. The Dodgers tend to do that, you know -- move westward.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Inge Becoming Too Much For Tigers To Handle, Or Tolerate

I know that Brandon Inge can walk and chew gum at the same time. I've seen him do it. So I know he can multi-task.

But Inge is apparently finding it difficult to think and hit at the same time. He sits in his catcher's crouch and purports to being concerned with how he can possibly hit with any effectiveness while he's thinking about catching Tigers pitchers.

"You're always thinking (when you are catching)," Inge told the Detroit Free Press after Sunday's game, in which he caught Kenny Rogers. "There is no downtime between pitches" to adjust.

"The way I felt out there today, I'll be a .200 hitter," he said.

Looks like someone is trying to give himself a built-in excuse. Or is holding his team hostage.

I like Inge. I didn't always. I thought he came off like a crybaby after the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez, displacing Inge as catcher. I felt like his reactions and words were strange indeed, for a less-than-.200 hitter (at the time).

But he's engaging. He's involved in the community. He has a solid family life. And he's turned himself into one hell of a defensive third baseman.

But he still struggles with the stick at times, and that was one reason why the Tigers pulled the trigger and made the Miguel Cabrera trade. Inge is displaced again. And he's not been shy to express his dismay about the situation.

It's a strange, almost bizarre scenario being played out in Lakeland. Spring training started with an unprecedented presser, with manager Jim Leyland and Inge announcing that ... Inge wasn't happy, and that the team knows he isn't happy, and that the team wishes it could accomodate him, and that everyone loves Brandon Inge, and if we can trade him we will, but if we can't we won't, and there's no hard feelings. Then Inge said he's not happy, but that he's a team guy, and he wishes he could be accomodated, and that he's a Tiger for now, and he wants to play third base, and if he can't play third base in Detroit, he'd like to do so somewhere else, but if he stays in Detroit, there'll be no hard feelings.

It's unlike anything I've ever seen around the Tigers.

But I'm a little disturbed by Inge's recent comments, because he seems to be positioning himself for failure, and -- more disturbing -- there's a passive-aggressive thing going on here.

"Hey -- don't be surprised if my hitting sucks this year," he's saying, "because I told you I didn't want to catch, and you made me catch, and now this is what you get."

That's my take on it, anyway.

But someone should tell Inge about Rodriguez and the dozens of catchers whose likenesses appear in Cooperstown, in baseball's Hall of Fame. They seemed to be able to "think" and hit at the same time.

Inge is trying a new approach at the plate, his goal being to cut down on strikeouts and raise his batting average, even at the cost of reduced power if necessary. And he's telling everyone that all this might be derailed should he be forced to catch.

A more cynical person than me might consider that a cop out -- an excuse in waiting. An even more cynical person might think it's a way to force the team's hand and trade him, sooner than later -- by threatening poor plate performance due to all the thinking going on.

I think the Tigers should be realistic, and accept the fact that they'll probably have to get rooked in a trade in order to rid themselves of the distraction that the Inge situation is causing. He doesn't have great trade value right now, due to his poor 2007 and the Tigers' lack of any real bargaining power here, not to mention the size of Inge's contract. So it might be a case of addition by subtraction, as opposed to addition by addition; who the Tigers receive may need to be of secondary concern to the benefits of getting rid of Inge.

I don't want the Tigers to trade Inge, necessarily. I think he could be a terrific "super sub" -- a modern day Mickey Stanley. But he's becoming more of a sore thumb, and doesn't appear to particularly care about that. Strange behavior for a quote-unquote team guy, if you want to know.

I've been around long enough to know that when a guy starts planting the seeds for failure, then he's already halfway there. At least.