Can an old cat learn new tricks?

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:

10 responses to “Can an old cat learn new tricks?

  1. My love for Inge isn’t blind (I’m well aware of the streaky hitting, the injuries, etc), but it is pure, so I may also be a bit biased. I . . . really don’t see how it could make things worse, honestly. Raburn doesn’t start hitting until August, anyway, and Santiago is always around average with the hitting. If Inge can keep the hitting around .250 this season, it would work. IF. I know that’s a big if.

    And if Inge is needed at third, which I’m not yet convinced won’t happen sooner rather than later, we have guys who can play second. Other than the production, the only issue I can see is having not one but two infielders who are at a position they haven’t played consisently. That has the potential for hillarity, and by hillarity, I mean flaming disaster.

  2. Mmm, liquid Magglio.

    I don’t think Inge will win the 2B spot. Not because I don’t think he’s capable, but I feel like Leyland is already thinking of it as a Raburn/Santiago position, and Inge would have to be not just good, but exceptional to change that. Guess we’ll see…

  3. I don’t know if the Tigers have a clue what they’re going to do on defense anymore. We’re good to go for one half of an inning, but then we throw out these crazy ideas… Miggy on 3rd. Brandon on 2nd… Apparently I Don’t Know and What’s are unavailable???

  4. We are going to Lakeland in March and I cannot wait to see Brandon at second….Hope he makes it happen…Gotta be better than a first half Rugburn…. Santiago could share 2nd base. And, my favorite Donny Kelly will shine anywhere!

    • I live right by Lakeland and will be catching as many games as I can through training, too, so I’ll definitely keep everyone posted. I really, really hope to catch Inge at second at least once!

      Tickets are already selling like mad, btw. I got mine early and pretty much all that was left was the bleachers and lawn. Thanks, Prince.

  5. 1st Inge will have no problemo moving to second. And right now a magglio slurpee sounds really good

  6. Why can’t Cabbie play first … maybe he could lose some weight

  7. Just sit down and earn money playing once a week and shut up. And YES we will hate. And no this isn’t a Rogo alias.

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