The Brandon Inge Conundrum

Note: I started writing this piece and realized that Tom Gage wrote about 900 words on the same topic. While it might not be the freshest take, I’m posting it anyway for your consideration.
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For the life of me, I can’t remember a Tigers player that enraged me the way Brandon Inge does these days.

Yes, long-time readers of the Fungo remember my constant bellyaching about Craig Monroe but that was on a different level entirely. Monroe, I thought, was the most self-centered player on the Tigers; swing for the fences regardless of the situation, play defense when he felt like it.

Inge, I believe, is a team player. No question. He gives his all in the field and … perhaps at the plate. And we all know he played the second half of 2009 with two useless legs and still managed to play tremendous defense.

A total gamer.

But why then do I see him come to the plate and immediately think, depending on the scenario: pop-up, strikeout or double play? Is it the tattoos? His petulant attitude when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez and traded for Miguel Cabrera? The soul patch?

I think it’s all the above.

What pains me about this is my affinity for the Tigers. I don’t enjoy not liking Tigers players. The White Sox? I relish in despising all 25 on the roster. Sure, every Tigers team has featured a player that drove me looney, but this is unprecedented for me. (Well, in the case of the 2010 Tigers there are two maddening players: Inge and Ryan Raburn.)

Inge is hitting .253 coming into play today but get this: he’s hitting .326 in June — .333 with runners in scoring position after hitting just .182 and .174 with RISP in April and May respectively.

So what are we to make of this? Is Inge’s offensive production on the rise or is he setting us up with a rope-a-dope that will send us into a rage when he strands five runners in a game but makes two game-saving catches? (Speaking of D, he’s committed five errors and is on pace to match — if not surpass — last year’s 20. His fielding percentage is .972.)

No matter what fuels this fire I’ll have to live with it. Chances are Brandon Inge will be back at third base for the Tigers next season.

God help me.

Game 18: Tigers 8 – Rangers 4

ESPN highlights available here.
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The Score: Tigers 8 – Rangers 4

The Gist: For the first time in nearly nine years, Brad Thomas took the hill as a starter and did enough to keep the Tigers in the game until the offense took over in a kooky fourth inning. With two outs that inning, Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago scored on a wild pitch when the ball ping-ponged off the brick backstop and rolled toward Gene Lamont along the third-base line.

Winning-pitcher Eddie Bonine (2-0), Joel Zumaya and Jose Valverde combined with Thomas to hold the Rangers scoreless over the final seven innings. Johnny Damon drew three walks — a season’s worth for Pudge Rodriguez.

The Quote: “They’ve been getting us our wins.” — Damon, on the Tigers’ bullpen.

The Stat: 5 – The number of strikeouts by Zumaya on his two innings of work.

Up Next: Tigers @ Rangers | Sunday – 3:05 p.m. ET

Rick Porcello (1-1, 6.46 ERA) vs. former Tigers RHP Colby Lewis (2-0, 3.12 ERA)

On the air: FSD/1270 AM & 97.1 FM

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Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories

Tigers thoughts while listening to a pounding rain:
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  • I attended the Tigers Winter Caravan one time, in 1991 when I was living in Kalamazoo and had some connections with the local paper. Back then, only the media was invited. Or so I thought. I walked into a Kalamazoo hotel and saw dozens of fans asking for autographs from the players and Sparky Anderson.

    If memory serves me, Cecil Fielder was there. Recently signed Tony Bernazard was too. This I remember because I asked Sparky during the Q&A how he’d work Bernazard into the lineup without Tony Phillips losing at bats. The answer was classic Sparky and basically amounted to: “I have no idea but Tony is Tony and we’ll be all right.” Uh, yeah. (Bernazard was released in April after playing in just six games and hitting .167).

    The real story that winter was the recent firing of Ernie Harwell and, lo and behold, new Tigers President Bo Schembechler was on hand to answer questions about it. As you might guess, Bo was not happy with the first round of reporters’ questions being about Ernie and not the team. After that, he said he wouldn’t answer other questions on the topic and though people tried, he wouldn’t bite — other than to bite their head off for even asking.

    It was a great experience. If you get an opportunity to attend a Winter Caravan event, do it.

    Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories”

Friday Freehans: Trades, Memories and Salt for Your Game 163 Wound

This, that and the other after a long blogging layoff:

  • So where were you two years ago today? You were probably glued to ESPN or the Web reading all you could about the eight-player deal that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit. Time flies. (And just a year ago today Edgar Renteria spared Tigers fans a second season of his mediocrity by signing with the Giants.)
  • I’ll miss Placido Polanco more than I’ll potentially miss Curtis Granderson but I still don’t want the Tigers to deal him – or Edwin Jackson. (For what it’s worth, I own the bobblehead shown here. Guess I’ll have to store it alongside my Pudge bobblehead.)

    Continue reading “Friday Freehans: Trades, Memories and Salt for Your Game 163 Wound”

An Ides of March Sunday Buffet

Sometimes there’s so much to talk about that it’s better to throw it all out there in no particular order…

  • Yeah, yeah. Pudge Rodriguez dipped himself in the Fountain of Youth in the offseason and is showing some zest in the World Baseball Classic. Any team that thinks he’ll perform at this level for a full season — at least as a number-one catcher — is fooling their bad selves. It was interesting, though, to see the number of teams (beyond the Marlins) reportedly interested in signing Señor Ivan. Among them, the Astros (where he’d replace, sorta, another former Tigers catcher, Brad Ausmus), the Twins (?!) and the Giants. Apparently the Marlins are waiting for him to come to grips with not being a full-time player in 2009.

    Then again, if Pudge withers at the end of the WBC, he could be looking at a longer wait.

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  • First it was Kerry Wood. Then Carl Pavano. Now it looks like the Indians are among the clubs eyeing Pedro Martinez. Given fifth-starter issues the Tigers are facing (we’re talking about you, Nate and Dontrelle), wouldn’t you think the Tigers would at least place a call? Who knows, maybe they already have. But if by some bizarre twist of fate, Pavano and Martinez are part of a Cleveland post-season rotation, it’s going to make one Tigers-blog-writin’ guy mighty unhappy.

  • Last week I attended three Cactus League games (of varying quality) with my pals Steve and John, who flew in from Detroit. The first game (Indians/Brewers) was about as ugly a contest as you can imagine — even by Spring Training standards. Final: Brewers 17 – Indians 7.

    The only notable thing to come out of it was that the Tribe rolls out 90-year-old Bob Feller (pictured) to sign autographs at every home Cactus League game. I didn’t get an autograph nor did I overhear Feller rail on how Jackie Robinson couldn’t/wouldn’t make it in the big leagues, as Feller did back in the day.

    Bob Feller
    The second game, Dodgers versus Mariners at the beauteous new Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, featured two former Tigers sightings. The first was a silver-haired Jim Slaton, now pitching coach for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, and as you might have read this week in the News, Mariners’ non-roster invitee Chris Shelton. It was nice to see him still in the mix somewhere.

    The final game was no-thrills tilt between the Rockies and Padres in Tucson. Todd Helton homered in his first at bat and that was enough for me. Oh, and a big thumbs-down to Hi Corbett Field for not accepting credit cards for concessions. I had to pay the $2.25 ATM charge instead. Bush league.

Finally, today’s the birthday of bad seed/jackass and former Tiger Robert Fick. He’s 35 today.

Three for Thursday

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  1. Forgot to mention that last week I appeared on the Baseball Digest Live program on Blog Talk Radio. You can catch the show here. My segment is at the top of hour two.

  2. If MLB or the players’ union or whoever released the 103 other names on the list, would it surprise anyone to see Pudge Rodriguez‘s name on it? Wouldn’t surprise me. Just sayin’.

  3. Happy Birthday to two former Tigers of varying distinction: Gary Knotts(32) and Chet Lemon (54).

The Top 10 Tigers Stories of 2008: #8 – The Tigers Trade Pudge

Number8.jpgIt’s hard to believe that it has been nearly five years since Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez signed with the Tigers as a free agent — only a few months after winning the World Series with the Marlins. I tuned in to ESPNEWS on Feb. 6, 2004, to see if they were going to broadcast Pudge’s introductory press conference from Comerica Park. And they did.

My first thoughts were that his body language and tone of voice didn’t align with someone who just signed up for four-plus years in The D. Rather, he looked more like a guy who was thinking “After all I’ve accomplished in my career, this is what I get?” Thankfully, his attitude improved modestly over the seasons that followed (somewhat less, of course, near the end of the Alan Trammell Era).

We’ve read all about the Baseball Renaissance that Pudge fueled in 2004, and it’s all true. I was a huge Pudge fan and marveled at the effect he had on the Tigers. (And his performance during the 2005 Home Run Derby at Comerica Park was remarkable.) Despite the good times, I knew Pudge would leave Detroit and it wouldn’t be a entirely pleasant.

Nevertheless, I was stunned when, on July 30, he was traded to the Yankees — the Yankees! — for Kyle Farnsworth. Talk about déjà vu.

At the same time, I was relieved that a decision had been made on the future of Detroit’s catching spot, specifically that it would not be Rodriguez’s in 2009. Still, it seemed asymmetrical that a future Hall of Famer would arrive with much fanfare and depart at the trade deadline in what amounted to a lose-lose trade for both teams.