Thursday, February 21, 2013

Which Tiger Manager is Brandon Inge Throwing Under the Bus?

I apologize in advance. Many of you have no doubt moved on from Brandon Inge. I hope so, anyway. But I somehow came across this article and it has a surprise ending that rivals The Sixth Sense. Plus it gave me an excuse to mock yet another article written by someone else. You know I can't pass that up, especially with Inge involved.

This comes from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register. “The Ohio Valley. Delivered Like No Other Media.” Thank you for this, West Virginia. It’s about time you did something interesting other than master “Dueling Banjos”.

Brandon Inge knows what it's like to be ignored. 

Oh, stop already. Ignored? In the history of Major League Baseball, no player of such limited ability has received more press from the local media than Charles Brandon Inge. Well, maybe David Eckstein. But still. Give me a break.

Even worse, he knows what it's like to be mocked.

You’re welcome.

The veteran third baseman spent the first half of his career in Detroit playing for some of worst teams in recent memory during the early 2000s. It didn't exactly qualify as a good time.

The first half of Inge’s career covers 2001-2006.

2001: 66-96
2002: 55-106
2003: 43-119
2004: 72-90
2005: 71-91
2006: 95-67 (went to World Series)

2006 was a good time, I think. And only two of those teams could be considered some of the worst in recent memory. I may be nitpicking, but I get quite protective when anyone other than myself trash talks my baseball team.

"It started out, we were a laughingstock for awhile," Inge said.

Then it got even worse. As the Tigers rebuilt, people stopped talking about them at all.

When Brandon started out, the Tigers were rebuilding. And yes, they were a laughingstock. This was at the same time. There were not two different periods in Inge’s early tenure. C'mon, Intelligencer. If that IS your real name...

"If it's quiet, it's not really a good thing," he said.

Detroit, however, eventually got itself together thanks in part to Inge's relentless play. 

Oh, come on. Inge isn’t even in the top ten guys you can give credit to for the Tigers’ return to relevance leading up to 2006. Doubt me? Let’s see. In no particular order…

1. Mike Ilitch remembers he owns a baseball team and decides to focus on his Baseball Red Wings.
2. Dave Dombrowski rebuilds the immense damage caused by that dickbag Randy Smith.
3. Jim Leyland takes over what had been a somewhat unstable manager position.
4. Ivan Rodriguez and Fernando Vina make it seem okay for free agents to sign in Detroit again.
5. Magglio Ordonez follows their lead.
6. Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco are stolen from stupider teams.
7. A youngster named Curtis Granderson emerges from nowhere to become a star.
8. Killer contracts of Damion Easley and (sniffle) Bobby Higginson finally go away and free up payroll.
9. Kenny Rogers is brought in to lead a young staff and teach them the game.
10. A quartet of youngsters named Verlander, Bonderman, Zumaya, and Robertson pitch their asses off. (Yes, Bondo, Zoom, and Nate would blow up later, but back to #2, DD, keeps replacing pitching parts.)

Keep going, if you want to. Look. Brandon had a good glove and a couple nice years, I guess. He sold his share of jerseys to confused white kids that watch a dozen games a year and were frightened of Dmitri Young. He was amazing in his charity work. And I get that the paper is trying to make him look good to the nine Pirate fans that haven’t hung themselves in the past decade.

But Brandon Inge’s “relentless play” falls somewhere between a random Sean Casey home run and Eric Munson disappearing from my TV screen on my list of reasons why Detroit doesn’t suck anymore.

At 35 and recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Inge thinks he can still bring it. And he thinks the Pirates are on their way just like the Tigers were not so long ago.

"I can tell they're in the transitioning stages right now," Inge said. "It's going to be fun to be a part of."

Dude’s been in town less than a week and he’s suddenly an expert on the Pirates organization. The next rainstorm in Pittsburgh will be the falling tears of the late, great Roberto Clemente.

Provided his right (throwing) shoulder cooperates. Inge battled the aching joint much of 2012, heading to the disabled list four times in all, the last time coming when the shoulder popped out of place Sept. 1 while making a place at third for the Oakland Athletics.

Yes, the shoulder. Don’t forget about both of his knees. And his hand. Also, you never know when mono will come back. And be prepared, Pittsburgh, most fragile of all is the guy’s inflated ego.

The six-month recovery period is almost up and the Pirates felt good enough about Inge's rehab to sign him last week hoping he can provide some depth as a utility player. 

No mention of Brandon’s MMA training this offseason? Screw you, Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register. That’s the best part!

/throws away dozen poorly thought out Inge/MMA jokes

Inge stuffed his equipment bag full of gloves before heading down to spring training from his home in Michigan. There's a chance he might need every one in order to find a niche in Pittsburgh.

Well, the Pirates third baseman is Pedro Alvarez, who’s only 25 and hit 30 home runs last year in his first full season. Pittsburgh’s second baseman is Don Kelly’s brother-in-law, Neil Walker. Don’t let that fool you, as Walker’s actually a pretty solid baseball player. Around a 2.5 WAR guy.

So yeah. Unless someone on the Pirates infield gets hit by a train, any playing time Inge will see will be batting in the pitcher’s spot late in games after Jason Grilli blows a save.

"If I started at a different position every day, I don't care," he said. "I love competing and being a part of a team I think I can help. It's more fun."

“Except for catcher. Forget that, pal.”

The Pirates are less concerned with fun and more interested in having someone who's been through the grind to help a team learn how to win consistently. Pittsburgh is set at third, shortstop and second base and first appears to be a battle between Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez. Yet as Inge points outs, "everybody is going to need a day."

You’re not in Detroit anymore, Brandon. Not every manager subscribes to Jim Leyland’s “everyone gets two days a week off” rule.

It's something Inge saw plenty of the last two seasons as the 2009 All-Star's role diminished in Detroit to the point where the Tigers let him go last spring. Inge insists he doesn't hold a grudge for Detroit letting him walk after 11 seasons.

/Inge’s nose begins to grow

Besides, he landed on his feet in Oakland, 

Actually, it was his shoulder.
where he helped the upstart A's make the playoffs. Inge hit .226 with 11 homers and 52 RBI in 74 games in Oakland before the shoulder ended his season. Watching his old team and his current one battle in the postseason was a little weird.

"I told (the Tigers) if I was playing against you in the playoffs you wouldn't have made it (to the World Series)," 

The Tigers responded by laughing so hard and so long, they were exhausted by the time the World Series came around.

Inge said with a laugh.

Christ, I hope so.

Inge spent the offseason focusing on trying to get healthy and keep his career afloat. The phone rang with several opportunities but he chose Pittsburgh based on fit.

What teams do you turn down to be a POSSIBLE backup in Pittsburgh? Houston, Newark, St. Paul, and maybe the Hiroshima Carp are the only ones I can come up with. I would include Cleveland, but Brandon’s still too close to his prime to qualify for an offer from the Indians.

Three more years until Brandon’s the Tribe’s DH! I can’t wait.

"I'm a huge fan of a blue-collar team and over the years, no matter what the record that was reflected, this team at the end of the year is a blue-collar team," Inge said. 

As opposed to those white-collar bastards in…um, Washington? I dunno.

"They really play hard, go out there and give everything they have. It's something I really wanted to be a part of."

I make jokes, but Inge knows his clich├ęs. I tip my hat to the Special Little Guy there.

Even if Inge isn't quite sure when the doctors will let him really cut loose. Though he insists he can throw just fine, 

Still lying about injuries, I see. Remember when that helped cost us the AL Central in 2009 by refusing to let the vet do the right thing and put him down? I do.

Inge acknowledges he may not be 100 percent until April.

"There's no pain, it's just a matter of trying to be smart about it and that's hard for me to do," he said.

It’s hard for Brandon Inge to be smart. There you have it from the man himself.

That should give him enough time to get acclimated. This is the first time in his career he didn't start the season with the Tigers. This weekend marked his first steps inside Pirate City and he joked he felt like a rookie.

In some ways, he is, though he and manager Clint Hurdle shared a couple of laughs during a brief meeting shortly after Inge arrived.

INGE: I wanna start.

HURDLE: Hahahahahahaha…

"We're just playing catch-up with him," Hurdle said.

Something Inge can appreciate. He spent most of the last seven seasons playing for Jim Leyland, who knows a little something about what it takes to win in Pittsburgh. 

Unless it means winning the NLCS with Pittsburgh.

Though Leyland and Hurdle are very different, Inge sees a common trait that will pay dividends.

"He wants to win," Inge said. "I've been around a lot of managers. 

Here it comes. Pay attention.

I've been fortunate to be around a lot and there's a difference. You can tell ones that just go through the motions and just want to make a mediocre season and he really honestly, truly, he wants to turn it around."

Phil Garner (2000-2002)
Luis Pujols (2002)
Alan Trammell (2003-2005)
Jim Leyland (2006-present)

Who you got your money on in the Brandon Blame Game? Who’s he throwing under the bus?

Garner would go on to lead the Astros to the playoffs twice and a World Series appearance after Detroit. Inge was a rookie and hadn't played a full season yet before Garner was shown the door. So I think he's out.

Pujols was a terrible manager, but he’s Felipe Alou’s best friend and is still coaching today after twenty years. I don’t think he’s one to go through the motions. Alou's one of the most respected baseball minds ever and he took Pujols everywhere.

Trammell was given the biggest raw deal in baseball managing history, in my opinion. And with Kirk Gibson on his staff, if Tram acted like he didn’t give a damn, Gibby would have skinned him alive. But I have to think that Tram's the guy Inge is referring to. Inge spent three terrible years under Trammell. But I just refuse to believe that Tram and company would just go through the motions...even with an awful team. Maybe it's just the ten year old in me that worshipped the ground Trammell walked on.

And just to cover everyone, that leaves Jimbo. Leyland cares more than any manager I’ve ever seen. Anyone that disputes is either Bill Simonson or a complete idiot (redundant).

You played on horrible teams at the beginning of your career, Brandon, because you were horrible. And you were surrounded by horrible players. Don’t put that on the manager, you putz.

So, congrats, Brandon Inge. Almost a year after being shown the door, you're still managing to irritate me. I applaud your tenacity.

Now just shut your Shani-pleaser and concentrate on trying to actually make contact with a curveball for the first time in over a dozen years. Ass.

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