I know. The big news of the weekend was the Tigers thrilling sweep over the Cleveland Indians. But lost in that excitement is the call up of Third Baseman Brandon Inge. After being exiled to Toledo for the past month, Inge made his triumphant return to the Tigers lineup Saturday night, where he promptly responded with a homerun in his first at bat back in Detroit. Just like a real Hollywood ending. And it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
When you say someone wears his heart on his sleeve, that is literally true for Inge. He has his kids’ names tattooed on his arms. Inge and his wife have worked tirelessly and raised tons of money to support the University of Michigan Children’s Hospital and other local charities. As far as I know, he is the only Tiger to live in Michigan year-round, while the others return to their mansions in Florida and Calfornia during the offseason. He has been through good times (2006 World Series team) and bad times (2003 team that lost an American League record 119 games).
Inge has played wherever the Tigers needed him: He’s caught, played third base, caught again, played outfield, and then moved back to third, where he remains one of the most outstanding defensive players in the game. And when it came time for his demotion to the minors after a terrible start to this season, Inge didn’t sulk or shoot his mouth off to the media about how the Tigers don’t appreciate him. He accepted his minor league assignment with class and dignity, went down to Toledo where he worked to get his groove back, and returned to the Tigers ready to play again.
Just think about that. If your boss said you could go lie and the beach and still collect your 11 million dollar salary, or you can go to the Toledo office and work with a bunch of kids just starting in the business, what would you choose? Inge clearly had too much pride and professionalism to call it a career just yet. And from the looks of what we saw Saturday, he still has something to offer as the Tigers try to close the deal and finally make it to the playoffs this season.
So, all you Jim Leyland haters, are you ready to admit that you may have overreacted to the manager’s decision not to start Justin Verlander this weekend? I also questioned the decision, but Leyland may know a thing or two about managing after all. It’s not like it was the final series of the year, or even the final time the Tigers play Cleveland this season. And I liked the message that he delivered to the other Tiger starters: It’s time for you to step up. Scherzer and Fister responded to the challenge; Percello did not. But one thing is clear: The Tigers can not win the Central Division or a playoff series without someone other than Justin Verlander winning at least some of the games.