Inge: A Tiger no longer

I’ve been a supporter of Brandon Inge for a long time. But the time has come to say goodbye.

Inge has not been able to contribute to the Detroit Tigers for some time. Defensively he has been adequate, not his typical great, and offensively a Little League coach would struggle to put him at the bottom of a 14-man lineup.

In his last two seasons — plus his whopping 20 at-bats this year — Inge is barely above the Mendoza line with a .226 average. Mario Mendoza (1974-1982) was a career .215 hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. His ineptness at the plate led to the Mendoza line analogy for being below the .200 mark.

Inge is 182-for-803 since the start of the 2010 season. That includes a .197 average a year ago. He finished out his career as a Tiger hitting .100 with two hits, although, one was a game winning home run against Kansas City.

The argument to keep Inge has always been his defensive ability. His ability to make a spectacular diving play or range deep into a hole made us forget that he is actually a career .234 hitter. His minor league numbers (.250) are not much better.

It was one thing for Inge to hit .253 or .230 and hit 27 home runs as he did in the 2006 and 2009 seasons. But for five seasons from 2004-2008 his average dropped every year from .287 to .205. Along with the average, his home run ability has disappeared despite his supposed strength increase this year.

No longer could his play on the field makeup for weak grounders, popups and strikeouts.

Inge has always been a fan favorite. That has not been the case recently. He was booed every time he stepped to the plate and has been the focus of radio talk shows and columnists across the state. Inge was booed on opening day. Who gets booed on opening day?

I felt bad for the guy. With each flailing at-bat, Inge’s contributions to the Tigers the past 10-plus years was locked away further in our minds.

We forgot about the kid called up from the minor leagues, probably too soon, that endured one of the worst stretches in Tigers history including the 119 loss season of 2003.

We forgot about his constant movement — willingly or unwillingly — from position to position as the Tigers rebuilt on the field. We forgot the daily effort on the field or in practice no matter how futile the results ended up being.

Inge has meant a lot to the city of Detroit, the Tigers and their fans. It was time for the Tigers’ management to move on without Brandon Inge.

Maybe a fresh start will help him out. Maybe it is just time to step away from the game.

Once with a lineup consisting of Eric Munson, Shane Halter and Warren Morris (who?), Inge was a star in the making. With a lineup of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Inge looked like a washed up player hanging on too long.

Despite the wrath from fans and media, following Thursday’s loss, Inge said, “My heart will always be 100 percent in Detroit.”

Inge has always been a class act. Now that he is gone, I think fans will ultimately give him his proper due. Maybe not right away, but eventually they will.

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