A national audience was witness during Saturday’s game to a look of tremendous relief over the face of Brandon Inge as he had just sent Tigers fans home happy with a walk off home run. While it was only his third of the year, it marked a continued switch in momentum where the Tigers have grabbed full control of their destiny in the AL Central. It also marked a change in approach from Dave Dombrowski and his staff since the team’s magical run in 2006.
While Inge was given the opportunity to earn his way back up to the big club, he most likely would have been waived straight off the roster if this were five years earlier.
While the reasons for their demotion/release had some significant differences (sub-.180 batting average vs. substance abuse), the longest tenured Tigers player was given a chance to get back in the lineup based on what he brought to the clubhouse. For outsiders to the team, it seemed at the time that Young’s issues were taking a toll on the entire team. For a team that was blistering their way through the American League, the focus suddenly turned on Dmitri who had begun to struggle and make headlines on his alcoholism.
Based on what we saw in 2006 and what we’re seeing now, Dombrowski used the Dmitri Young example as a change to how he dealt with players dealing with substance abuse/alcoholism issues. Miguel Cabrera’s personal demons have been well touted and described throughout the media. One could argue that if Cabrera were not filled with tremendous upside, saddled with a large contract, and be the team’s best hitter, he might have found a similar fate to Young – but the impact that would have on the team and the clubhouse has weighed on the team’s GM.
A similar argument could be made for a struggling Magglio Ordonez. While his case is closer to the weak hitting Brandon Inge (vs. the alcoholism issues of Young, Cabrera), Ordonez and the aforementioned Inge provide that glue in the clubhouse that may turn a team around for the better if things begin to go south during a playoff series. Plus, as we found out on Saturday and on one cold night in October 2006, either Brandon or Magglio have the potential of also turning a game in favor of the Tigers.