In life, we all let go of things we really don’t want to. Seeing your kid leaving for kindergarten, saying goodbye to a friend moving out of state and many other instances that life throws at people.
As non-testosterone filled as it may sound, we even find ourselves in tough “say goodbye” situations when it comes to athletes leaving the teams they have been with for years. It may not always bring us to tears like Wayne Gretzky leaving Edmonton, but it still leaves a hole in our stomach, just as it would be like saying goodbye to Brandon Inge.
That’s right, you read that correctly, Brandon Inge, as weird as it sounds, will be one tough farewell when the Tigers decide to release him.
Brandon Inge, who has been playing for Detroit through thick and thin since 2001, isn’t making a strong case by any means. Batting just .177, with a mere 17 RBI, and a .954 fielding percentage made the Tigers decision very easy to designate him for assignment and send him down to Toledo.
Now this doesn’t mean Inge is guaranteed to be out of a job yet, but let’s all be real here, he is as good as gone. The Tigers made it very obvious they are looking for a better man at the hot corner when they grabbed Wilson Betemit from the Royals, so for the time being third base is out of the picture. Now Inge, who has dabbled at virtually every position in his 11 years with Detroit, may seem like he has other options in the field, but in Detroit those possibilities are very limited.
Any other position in the infield is out the window. With Jhonny Peralta at short, Carlos Guillen, Ramon Santiago and even Ryan Raburn rotating at second, it wouldn’t seem sensible to add him to the depth chart. Now another barely viable option for him would be the outfield, which has seen Inge in 41 games, but again there is better talent standing in his way on both offense and defense. Catching, which was his forte for the first four years and a good portion of 2008, is clogged up with the talents of Alex Avila and Victor Martinez.
The only reasonable choice for the organization would be to mail him a $6 million check and go the next season without him in the dugout. Yep, the only practical thing for the Tigers to do is release Detroit’s beloved player.
Many fans have already come to the conclusion that Inge is seeing his last days, but those thoughts aren’t coming without a slight of heartache for many Tiger fans. When Inge was called up to the bigs at the turn of the millennium, the Tigers were the likes of a Triple-A team. Getting absolutely shellacked for the first couple years was hard for D-Town to watch, but if anything positive came out of those seasons, it was No. 15.
A good five years of being a bottom feeder for most players would send them into the general manager’s office looking for a trade or refusing a contract extension just to get out of the city, but not Inge. Inge is the only player in Detroit this year that was on that putrid 2004 team and has been thrown to more positions than Gumby, yet no one ever heard him complain about it.
The type of character he brought to the team and community made Inge a favorite player in the clubhouse, but what happened outside of the ballpark is crucial to his identity as well.
Having just 137 home runs isn’t going to put Inge in the “best power hitter” conversation, but what is impressive about two of those home runs is that they came from promises made to sick children. In one instance Inge hit a bomb to the bullpen after promising a five-year-old named Noah he would “try his best” to hit a home run. Once he came back to the dugout, the beloved player broke down into tears, proving that some athletes don’t do this just for the PR, they do it to make a difference.
Aside from hitting promised long balls, Brandon Inge and his wife have donated over $100,000 to Mott’s Children’s Hospital and is a frequent visitor to the young patients. Inge has also held baseball equipment drives and gives back to the community in so many other ways. In a sports world filled with PED trials, DUIs and greed, it’s good to see a big figure making a positive influence in a city like Detroit.
Unfortunately we could be seeing Inge’s last days in the Tigers' organization, as far as baseball goes it would only make sense to release him. It may take a while for some people to realize what a difference he made to the city, but we all will sense it down the road.
So Brandon, we may not like how you swing the bat, but the whole Tiger Nation thanks you for your character, loyalty and work ethic that so many fans looked up to. We’ll miss you all-star, we’ll miss you.