illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Brandon Inge has asked for– and been granted– permission to try out for second base. Although he has played a variety of positions for the Tigers, he hasn’t played them all, and second base is one of those un-Inge-touched spots. There is only one Don Kelly, after all.
Can Inge play second? If it was a simple matter of athleticism, even with the years decreasing his range, agility, ability to make sharp cuts, etc, I would say that he’d be fine. Provided he doesn’t have any acute injuries, even an aged Brandon Inge is a more capable infielder than a great many other cats in the majors right now.
Alas, it is not so simple a matter. For one thing, he has had a variety of acute injuries in recent times, and we will see more and more of that sort of thing the longer he stays in the league. For another, he’ll still have to hit. The Tigers have done that ‘there are so many big sluggers on this team, we can afford to carry some dead bats near the bottom of the lineup!’ thing before. It always seems to be a good idea, like trading away young pitchers you don’t think you’ll end up needing because your rotation is firmly set, or marching on ahead with only Alex Avila catching because backup catchers are for chumps. Thing is… it doesn’t work.
Miggy strains his oblique, or Avila goes into a slump, or Magglio’s entire body liquefies and will take weeks and huge amounts of cornstarch to resolidify, or whatever– something ALWAYS happens to bring those unfortunate sub-.250 BAs into the stark, hideous light of day. And then everyone says things about winning and losing as a team and the pitchers grit their teeth and say they don’t blame anyone and some quad-A type gets a shot because why not, and we all rend our hair and gnash our teeth and say very mean things that the little people in our TVs totally do not deserve.
Now, it’s not as though the Tigers are firmly set at second, and Inge knows this. Sure, Jim Leyland has some sort of weird yet pure love for Ryan Raburn, but few others are so devoted. Inge could see the way the wind was blowing and decided his best shot at staying with the big cats was to go down the depth chart and see which infield position was the weakest and most unsettled. When he saw it was second base he started wondering what he would have to do to get in on that action. Apparently what he had to do to get in on that action was call up Dave Dombrowski, and also have 11 seasons in Detroit making it necessary to treat him with a certain level of respect.
People will see this as either a brave move by a player who knows when he’s outclassed at his preferred position and will do anything to stay with the Tigers, or a desperate grasp at relevancy and continued employment from a player whose options in those arenas are rapidly dwindling down to nothingness– depending on how they feel about Inge in general.
I also find it hard to believe that Miggy will be playing at third all the time. There is no Victor in 2012. Surely that will mean Prince or Miggy at DH a fair amount… right? As difficult as it may be to imagine, the Tigers no longer have an ancient outfield, which means those cats can actually PLAY, instead of having to be stashed at DH. No more Magglio. No more Guillen. So who DHs? Brennan Boesch, if he’s in one of his hot streaks? Delmon Young when he’s not in the outfield for whatever reason? Andy Dirks? Paws preserve us.
I know Don Kelly can slide in there if there’s an open base. But I think it would be a positive thing to keep Inge around. You all know how I feel on the matter, and maybe I’m letting that influence my opinion a wee bit too much, but this scenario is far from the worst idea in the world.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again here: