Brandon Inge is easily the most polarizing player on the Detroit Tigers.
There are some folks that will proclaim their love for the infielder in a truly unapologetic way. These are the people that routinely voted Inge as player of the game on Fox Sports Detroit, even in games where Inge did nothing of particular note.
There are also some folks that refuse to acknowledge even the best of accomplishments by Inge, such as his drastically improved play at the end of last year.
Personally, I have gone back and forth on Inge.
Ten years ago, I loved the potential of Inge and would root him on during his stint with the West Michigan White Caps.
Back then, he was a do-it-all player that seemed destined to be the Tigers' catcher of the future.
But then in 2004, the Tigers got their first big free-agent signing in over a decade when they pried Pudge Rodriguez away from the World Series champion Florida Marlins.
Inge eventually found his way to third base and had some very good years, including an All-Star appearance.
But again, Inge was displaced by an incoming player, this time Miguel Cabrera, and became a catcher again.
It was about at this time when I started to lose my patience with Inge. He griped about losing his job, griped about having to catch again and his bat became cold.
Many a game I chose Inge's at-bats to go to the other room to grab a beer. You knew that Inge would either ground out or strike out, especially with runners on base.
Inge's bat eventually became ice cold last year, resulting in a demotion to Triple-A Toledo.
But Inge stormed back and went on to have a good end of the season.
But again, Inge was displaced at third base when the Tigers signed free-agent behemoth Prince Fielder to the richest contract in Detroit history, which again moved Cabrera back to third base.
But instead of stewing about it, Inge instead asked for the opportunity to compete to play second base.
Here is where I started to root for Inge again. Maybe it was the uninspired way that Ryan Raburn fumbles around second base on defense, or perhaps Inge's freakish athleticism that made me root for him again, but I really went into this spring hoping that Inge could pull another miracle out of his rear.
There was never really any doubt that Inge could handle the defensive duties of second base. The question is whether or not he could hit routinely enough to merit a roster spot.
And with about a week left in spring training, Inge has effectively answered that question.
At this point in his career, Inge can no longer consistently hit major league pitching.
Inge has the worst batting average of anyone with more than 13 at-bats this spring, a pathetic .174 average.
Not only is Inge not hitting for average, but he isn't getting on base (.224 OBP) and he doesn't have any power (one home run, and just one run batted in).
Now, if Detroit didn't have anyone else to play the position, that would be one thing.
If Detroit didn't have someone else to play the position that was hitting well, that would be another.
Heck, if Detroit didn't have someone younger than Inge, with potential to be a good pro for more years to come, that would also be quite another thing.
But the Tigers have all of the above.
Ryan Raburn is bashing the ball this spring, Ramon Santiago is better than ever and even the youngster Danny Worth is looking good.
So the Tigers have three guys, all younger, better and more consistent than Inge, that are each hitting at a much better clip than Inge.
Add to that the fact that Worth has shown glimpses of some real promise at a number of positions, and could be a very nice defensive replacement at either shortstop or second base.
This also would allow the Tigers to keep him and Andy Dirks, another youngster with potential.
At this point, rewarding Inge with another trip to Detroit would be counter-productive on so many levels.
It would tell the youngsters that even though they were required to put up or else miss the club, that those same rules didn't apply to Inge.
It also weakens the team in order to placate an over-the-hill offensive liability.
In a league that stresses "what have you done for me lately," allowing Inge to remain with the team would send all the wrong messages.
Besides, it would make this a less competitive club going forward.
The Tigers must cut Brandon Inge.
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