Mired in a year long slump, Brandon Inge watched the Tigers trade for Royals third baseman Wilson Betemit on Wednesday to serve as his replacement down the stretch. It was a move that was hard to swallow for the longest tenured Tiger, but Inge handled it with the class that made him a fan favorite over the last 11 years in the Motor City.
To make room on the active roster, the Tigers (assuming he clears waivers) will send the veteran third baseman to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Toledo. The caveat here was that Inge had to approve the move due to his major league service time, which he did.
Most players wouldn’t have done that. If Inge had refused the assignment, the Tigers would have released him and paid the remainder of his $5.5 million salary this year and next year, leaving him free to sign with another team at virtually no cost to that other club.
In other words, Inge made the decision that he would rather head to the minor leagues to try to break out of his slump than leave the only organization he has ever known for an immediate shot to play in major leagues.
Inge is the only Tiger who lives in Michigan year round, he abundantly gives to local charities and has has been a model citizen since joining the team for the first time in 2001.
It’s hard to walk 20 feet at Comerica Park without bumping into someone in a Brandon Inge number 15 jersey. In an interview after the trade, Inge said, “No matter what happens, no matter what ever happens, this is gonna be home for me.”
You don’t find loyalty like that very often in sports today. LeBron bolted for South Beach, Inge humbly took I-75 South to Exit 202 in Ohio.
It might be easy to criticize his sub .200 batting average this year, or some of his recent miscues at the hot corner. Trust me, plenty of fair-weather fans have.
But for me, his attitude, class, heart and loyalty are enough. He’s had plenty of great moments on the field. He’s hit big home runs and made key defensive plays over the last decade at Comerica Park, but if he never makes another one, he’ll still be one of my favorites.
Brandon Inge is everything that is right with sports.
He’s a role model. He gives 100 percent on every play. He’s a great teammate. In a “Me, Me, Me” culture, Inge stands out.
He’s a transplant from another time when sports weren’t just a business focused on wins and dollar signs, they were a public trust. He’s never been a Hall of Fame player, but he’s a Hall of Fame person. He’s been a joy to watch from the first minute, even if he strikes out more than you would like.
Brandon Inge can play for me any day and there will always be a place for him at my kitchen table. He is the kind of person I will want my kids to look up to.
So if this is the end for Inge, I am sorry to see him go. But it is never too late for a comeback and you can’t help but think he has at least one last hurrah in him. Time will tell, but I’ll be rooting for him no matter what.