I feel like I should be running around all spastic with happiness over our assured 2012 World Series title like many Tigers fans are today, but the line-up situation bugs me so badly that I just can’t drink the Kool-Aid yet. At least Michael Rosenberg at the Free Press agrees.
That, and I’m suddenly very concerned about my ability to get spring training tickets. Jesus H. Christ, is Joker Marchant going to be a zoo next month.
Anyway, you can probably see what’s coming here if you read my last post. Before you roll your eyes and leave the room, let me reiterate that I am in no way in denial regarding Inge’s ability to hit. This is not going to be an argument for why Inge should be the third baseman for the team and how unfair it is to move him, or bench him, or whatever. I’m also well aware that this is a business and, in business, you can’t make everyone happy.
However. There’s a way you handle this, and a way you don’t. As the reports yesterday moved rapidly from “I bet Cabrera is going to DH” to “Cabrera is telling everyone he’s the third baseman”, and had a sick feeling as to how this was going to go down, and that was confirmed during the press conference this afternoon. When this deal was discussed, the organization told Cabby he was moving to third full time, and no one told Inge. Leland said that he apologized to Inge because they hadn’t meant for it to break before they told him. He said that he had “not been at liberty” to discuss it with Inge beforehand. Inge “isn’t the happiest camper”, but he can still be a valuable part of the team. That last part is what you tell the press when a player is still on contract and but has effectively lost their job.
Here’s the thing, though. The organization has said multiple times that they spoke to Cabrera during the winter caravan about the move. No one talked to Inge until, what, yesterday? I don’t know the operating model of a team, so I know I don’t have all the information, but to me, that translates as “Cabrera is our superstar hitter, so we need to make sure he’s okay with this, but you barely hit for average and are on the last year of your contract, so we’re not concerned about your feelings on the matter”. And if that’s what happened, that Dombrowski or Ilitch (two men who, by the way, have always stood by Inge even when others didn’t) didn’t feel it was necessary to at least tell him this was happening before it broke in the press, that really sucks. No, we’re not talking about a superstar player in Inge, but we are talking about the man who has played for them for his entire career and was the starting third baseman for most of that time. Ten years. Not only that, according to the team, he has always worked above and beyond others, done whatever it took to help the team win, was a force and a leader in the clubhouse when times were tough. They’ve believed in him enough to sign him to contracts when fans thought we could do better and stood by him personally when he was struggling so seriously last season.
And no one talked to him.
I thought the Tigers front office was better than that. My prediction? I see this going two ways. First, Cabrera doesn’t work out at third and Inge gets to play there at least part time. Second, Inge is out of the organization by the end of the season. This is what I think will happen. I get the vibe that the only reason he’s still with them is because he’s on contract. They’re either going to trade him or release him, period, and he’s going to go without a fight. The Inge I know is going to fight like hell during training to prove that he can come back to at least his average. He could come out of spring training at the level he was in 2009, but even if he does, it won’t matter, because there isn’t a place for him anymore, and I wish someone had at least given him the courtesy of telling him that to his face.
I hope I’m wrong about Cabrera at third. I hope he can play it at least well enough to not cost us late leads. I hope that, wherever Inge ends up next, he plays a hell of a third base for him, that he’s appreciated, and most importantly, that he’s happy just to play the game. Most of all, I hope that, if they get that series ring this year, that Inge plays enough games with the Tigers that he gets one, too.