During the Detroit Tigers press conference today introducing Prince Fielder as the newest member of the team, manager Jim Leyland said that Brandon Inge was not happy about his new role as a backup.
And while Inge has been an important member of this Tigers team for the better part of a decade, and definitely the most divisive player in terms of fan's opinions, should we really care?
I know, the Inge homers will howl and point to Inge's numbers during the first half of his career with Detroit. They will talk about his Brooks Robinson-like defensive prowess at third base and his loyalty to the franchise.
But let's take a minute and actually look at what Inge has done for Detroit.
In all honesty, Inge has not been a good player for Detroit since the first half of the 2009 season. He played incredibly well, earning an All-Star nod.
However, in the second half of that year, he struggled. Of course he was battling a knee injury, but his production fell off a cliff.
The next year, he was healthy and unchallenged in his job of starting third baseman. This obviously was not the case a couple years prior when Inge openly griped about being moved back to catcher.
Regardless, he had the opportunity to show what he was capable of, and fell firmly onto his face. He hit only 13 home runs and 70 RBI. His OBP was an anemic .321 with a sad .397 slugging percentage. To top it off, he had 20 errors.
So he should have been excited to showcase his skills the next year and show that he was the All-Star and not the bust, right?
In the first half of 2011, he was perhaps the worst hitter in baseball. He finished somewhat strong, but still ended up hitting below the Mendoza line (.200) with a pathetic .197 batting average.
It almost seems cruel to point out all of his other numbers, but here goes. He had 74 strikeouts and only 53 hits. He had an OBP of only .265 with only three home runs despite coming to the plate 303 times.
These are truly sad numbers. These are the type of numbers that are reserved for late-game defensive replacements. These numbers are bad even for catchers. Heck, there are pitchers that have better numbers.
So what exactly can Inge complain about? He has been given every opportunity to show that he is worth running out there every day as the regular third baseman.
It is time to come to grips with the fact that Inge is now no more than a utility player and a late-game defensive replacement.
Inge needs to be happy with any appearance he can get, not gripe about a job that he feels should be his.
What made people like Inge was his gritty determination and work ethic. Now, he comes across as the pampered, spoiled, overpaid player with an inflated sense of self-worth.
This is not to say that Inge can not have a role with this team. He absolutely will be needed. But he needs to realize what type of player he is at this point in his career, and accept that role.
Inge needs to realize that he is lucky to get paid to play this game.
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