Confidence is important for a ballplayer, but misguided confidence can lead to troubles on and off the field.
Brandon Inge had tremendous confidence, but average big league ability. In most ways Inge was a below average major league baseball player, but he had a couple skills that kept him in the game, namely his throwing arm and ability to at least pass muster at several positions. That confidence never left him, and he survived in Detroit as a “cute mutt” whom many fans fell in love with.
For much of his career the front office accepted his warts because he was a warm body. Inge was a catcher, and not a very good one, when the Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez as a free agent before the 2004 season. The team did him a favor, told him he could still wear a uniform and play the role of big league ballplayer, but he’d need to become a third baseman. He had a very good arm, and was athletic enough, they figured. The team was going to be mediocre, so why not give this low-paying kid the job? Inge pouted, and told the media he felt he was just as good a catcher as Pudge.
Remarkably, despite that historic display of stupidity, people still took him seriously. Inge, admittedly, had two decent seasons, had nice range at third and always had that rocket arm. He ran into some fastballs when he wasn’t striking out 150+ times a year.
But Inge started to believe the cheers he got from the fans who loved his underdog story. He thought he should hit higher in the order, he thought he should win a Gold Glove. He made an All-Star team one year after smacking a ton of homers in the first half and he thought that meant he was a star.
His last six years in Detroit, Inge was the worst everyday player in baseball, and it wasn’t even close. The team got better all around him, he lost his job, and the Tigers sent him to the minor leagues after he hit under .200 for close to 200 games over a three-year stretch. He told reporters (with a straight face) that he could come back and be a second baseman. The media kept covering him like he was relevant because some Tigers fans loved the mutt.
Detroit released him not long after a brief second base experiment and the A’s picked him up. In his first nine games in an Oakland uniform, Inge hit four home runs and had 17 RBIs. He finished that year on the west coast, signed with the Pirates, played his last 50 games and hit one last home run, and it was over.