Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Inge Designated for Assignment

After ten years with the Tigers, Brandon Inge has been designated for assignment to make room for the newly acquired Wilson Betemit on the 25-man roster.  If he clears waivers (a pretty safe assumption), he said he will accept an assignment to Toledo.

The Tigers signed the slowly declining Inge to a questionable two-year $11million deal after last season and they will still be on the hook for most of that.  Even Inge's biggest doubters could not have imagined how far he would fall this year.  He was batting .177 with one homer in 239 plate appearances and showing no signs of snapping out of it.  What's worse is that his once stellar fielding had reached the point where it was no longer an asset.

Inge is one of the few players who lives in the Detroit area year round and has been quite active in the community.  He has also been one of the most popular Tigers locally consistently getting loud cheers and being voted player of the game by television audiences on a regular basis.  His popularity is probably part of the reason why the Tigers were willing to roll the dice on a two-year deal.

As much as local fans liked him though, he has long been the most controversial Tiger in the internet community.  Inge infuriated fans with his long slumps, his strikeouts and his complaining about being replaced at catcher by Pudge Rodriguez and at third by Miguel Cabrera.  It turned out that he was right about the third base decision.  Cabrera at first and Inge at third was a much better idea and that was arranged later.

At times, the complaining about Inge got to be too much.  It felt as if fans had such a personal dislike for the man that they refused to acknowledge the things he did well. He was called a bum, a replacement level player and worse on many occasions.

In reality, Inge's career performance fell somewhere between the adoration of some local fans and the hatred of certain internet fans.  Inge was certainly never a star and could be maddening at times, but he was a decent regular between 2004-2010.  During his prime he was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game and had enough power to club 27 home runs on two occasions.  He was significantly above the statistical replacement level each year during that period.  This year he actually was performing below replacement level and has now been appropriately replaced. 

If he never plays another game as a Tiger, he'll be remembered for many things - check-swing strike threes, great defensive plays, walk-off homers, strange statements to the press, community service, etc.  It's funny because if you look at his record, he should have been the most innocuous player since Tom Brookens.  Instead, he has been the most polarized.

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