Grab another glove, Brandon!
Embattled Tiger infielder Brandon Inge is being given the chance to play yet another a position for Detroit this spring. That according to manager Jim Leyland, who seems to have never met a utility player he didn’t fall in love with.
Inge hasn’t hit well enough to be an everyday major leaguer in about five years, but he has been able to pick it in the field. Every time his third base job has been challenged, Inge barks, most recently when the Tigers announced that first baseman Miguel Cabrera would moce across the diamond to play third base.
The wisdom of that decision is up for debate, but it seems that Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski are serious about it. Adding to an uncertain infield defense, Leyland dropped the bombshell that Inge would be encouraged to try out for the second base job, a position previously assigned to Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago.
No word yet on which of those two will bark loudest about the threat to their jobs.
Should Inge earn a spot at second, it would be his sixth position for the Tigers. In addition to third, Inge has played behind the plate and at all three outfield positions.
Offense is less of an issue at second base, for sure. So, the pressure on Inge to produce beyond his .100-something batting average would be less intense. However, Inge has a lot going against him. He strikes out as much a lot. A hell of a lot. Those frequent at-bats where he looks completely overmatched by MLB pitching, make him a target of Comerica Park boo-birds. He’s also never played second base and he’ll have to make the pivot on the double play, something Santiago can do brilliantly. The other candidate for the job, Raburn, is an offensive force despite his lackluster play in the field.
Suffice to say that Leyland’s three candidates for the second base remind us a lot of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. None of them is the whole package, none of them dazzle us, and we wish we had other options. The GOP candidates will inflict damage on the entire nation, but Inge, Santiago, and Raburn have to satisfy Tiger Nation.
Good luck fellas.
And let’s not forget to poke a little bit at Leyland and Dombrowski, who seem to think switching defensive positions is as easy as switching shampoos. Leyland and his staff already face a tall task in transforming Cabrera into a decent defensive third baseman. The last time he played tehre he made five errors in about two weeks of work. With his frame, Cabrera is one of the biggest guys to ever try to play the hot corner. This isn’t the NHL, he’s not being asked to block the ball down there, he’ll need to show range, agility, and make good decisions. And he has to do that without getting hurt, because if he does, Dombrowski and Leyland will have “lots of ‘splaining to do.”
So, why would Leyland want to entertain the idea of having not one, but two players in his infield playing at new positions? Especially positions as important as second and third base? That’s a head scratcher.
If Inge wasn’t good enough to be the everyday third baseman, why is he eligible to be the everyday second baseman, a position he has never played at this level or any other? Don’t tell me he’s the best athlete on the roster. That’s hogwash and we all know it. Your best athlete doesn’t hit .227/.308./.376 over a five-year stretch. Inge’s defensive range has also diminished in the last two seasons at third, how will he suddenly be able to get to all the ground balls hit his way at second base? If he wins the job, Jhonny Peralta better get himself a bicycle.
Baseball is made up of three separate skills: hitting, pitching, and defense. Defense is always listed last, but it’s not the least important. Detroit will spend just as many innings in the field in 2012 as they will at the plate. Switching players around in the infield is something you can do when you’re a fantasy baseball manager, not a big league skipper.