It seemed not that long ago that Brandon Inge was one of the most beloved athletes in Detroit sports. The one-time all-star and home run derby participant (Not lying, although he didn't hit a single home run) had played for the Tigers' organization for twelve seasons, dating all the way back to when the team nearly shattered the MLB record for most losses in a season. He was well known for his defensive prowess at third base and being a utility man for the Tigers. Some of his best seasons include:
2004: .287 BA, 13 HR, 64 RBI, 72 strikeouts
2005: .261 BA. 16 HR, 72 RBI, nine triples, 42 double plays turned at third base,
2006: .253 BA, 27 HR, 83 RBI, 398 assists, played in the World Series
2009: .230 BA, 27 HR, 84 RBI, AL All-star
This is the same Brandon Inge who could hit a 360-yard drive on a golf course and could throw a lefty curveball with his right hand by throwing it from behind his head. You would think that this guy was the son of Chuck Norris.
Instead, you have Inge playing for the Oakland A's as a second baseman. You have Brandon being heckled by Boston Red Sox fans: "Go back to the Tigers, Inge! YOU SUCK!!" You have baseball fans booing him and laughing at him at the same time every time he swings and misses. So why was he reviled so much by Detroit fans that the Tigers organization released him twice in almost a year?
One complaint about Inge was that he was overpaid as a "defensive utility man" and this statement actually holds plenty of merit. Despite what the stats above tell you, Inge was playing under a two-year $11.5 million contract with a buyout option for 2013. Signed in 2010, the Tigers are now responsible for paying Inge's $5.5 million salary this year with Inge playing for Oakland. Plus, Inge was once sidelined with mononucleosis. You know, that "kissing disease". Considering that Inge batted .197 last year and started the 2012 season batting .100 in twenty plate appearances, why wouldn't a sports fan get pissed?
Or perhaps it's Denny McLain calling Inge out by telling him to "get over it". On January 28 at a fundraiser for Madonna University's baseball team, McLain held up an autographed photo of Inge and showed it to 300 guests.
"This was Brandon Inge's last photo before he began whining about playing time." McLain announced (Foster, Terry).
He also stated that he'd "rather have a guy who bats over .300 and drives in 100 runs who boots some balls or doesn't get to some than a guy who's hitting .190 and not contributing offensively in any way." (Foster, Terry)
This is all coming from an ex-felon who was arrested for embezzlement and associated with organized crime. That's sad to have that type of person call you out, although it's a case of "the pot calling the kettle black". Inge did ask for a trade when the Tigers landed third baseman Miguel Cabrera (though it wasn't granted at the time), so McLain had somewhat of a point.
But maybe Detroit fans disliked Inge for his strongest suit: His fielding. Let's not forget that Inge's fielding percentage in his 1,001 games at third base was .961 (He started 926 of those games). Inge also committed 114 errors at third and was never comfortable as a catcher. You can argue that he had only one error in 2008, but his 63 errors between 2005 and 2007 suggest otherwise.
Or maybe it's a combination of all of these. To me, Brandon Inge reminds me a bit of John Cena. Love him or hate him, his mere presence stirs up a myriad of emotions. Some people may hate him for his on-field miscues while others love him for his clutch moments. But Detroit fans can now rejoice that with Inge released, "they can't see Inge" anymore. Brad Eldred has been called up from AAA-Toledo to try and kickstart the Tigers' bats, although he's batting .188 so far.
Did I mention that the Tigers still have at least one hitter batting under .200, even without Inge? Yessir, Eldred is and so is Ryan Raburn. He's batting a mundane .138 this season.