Leyland: “It’s not about Brandon Inge”
The Tigers have had enough going on that manager Jim Leyland hasn’t had to say much on the topic of Brandon Inge, who has arguably become the biggest baseball debate in Detroit since Tiger Stadium was torn down. The topic came up after Tuesday’s game, and Leyland waded into it.
To sum it up best in one quote: “The fact of the matter is, the Detroit Tigers right now — the manager and the entire group of players — are not doing enough to win games. That’s what it is. It’s not about Brandon Inge per se. …
“If you’re [ticked] off because the Tigers are losing right now, personally I don’t think it makes sense to take it all out on Brandon Inge, because I don’t think that’s the reason the Tigers are losing right now.”
The boos have been spreading around over the course of four wins in five days. He had been 0-for-12 after his home run off Royals lefty Danny Duffy, including 0-for-7 in Saturday’s doubleheader, and the boos grew with each at-bat. His third-inning double off Michael Saunders’ glove in deep center field brought out some cheers, but his strikeout an inning later brought them back out again. So did a ground ball that Inge couldn’t quite grab but that Ichiro Suzuki seemed set to beat out anyway, and a probably double-play ball that Inge bobbled before getting the lead out on a shovel pass to Jhonny Peralta.
Leyland understands some of the reaction, because the numbers are ugly. But he also thinks Inge’s visibility over the years, and his struggles in the last year or two, have exacerbated it.
“Normally, they’re not getting on the person personally,” Leyland said. “They’re getting on performance. And you know what? We have to take that. So you really can’t do anything about it. People say, ‘Do you take it personally?’ Well, nobody likes to get booed. Nobody likes to get ripped. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re not performing, that’s part of our business. You just have to not take it like somebody’s getting on you as a person. If you can’t handle that, you’ve got a problem.”
Leyland reiterated some of his stance on Inge.
“This probably means nothing to the fans, but this is what I personally think: I think Brandon Inge can be a contributor, particularly against left-handed pitching,” Leyland said. “But I truly believe that there’s too much focus on Brandon Inge’s impact right now on this team. He can help us, but if we don’t do good, it won’t be because Brandon Inge doesn’t do good, in my opinion. …
“I think Brandon Inge can contribute against left-handed pitching. But it just seems to be — I’m not asking anyone to change their opinions — I’m talking about fan-wise — but I think they’re carried away with the impact. That’s what I mean. I think people have to understand that it’s never one guy that’s going to make you win and it’s not one guy that’s going to make you lose.
“I think Brandon can contribute. For some reason, it seems like every town picks a guy. It just seems to be one of the things that happens, and it seems like they’ve targeted him. I can’t figure some of it out, but I do think it’s overexagerated. I think we have more with the Tigers to talk about than that situation.”
Leyland also believes it’s too soon to make an adjustment on Inge, now 2-for-20 since coming off the disabled list a week and a half ago.
“I do agree with this: Up here it’s about production,” Leyland said. “But I think it’s a little early to say that somebody’s not going to produce something or enough to help you. If it comes to that point with any player, you do something about it. …
“I don’t think you can set a timetable for that. I just think you use your expertise and how long you’ve been around. You use the expertise of your coaches. You use the expertise of your general manager. And you just kind of go about your business.
“I don’t think Inge has swung as bad as the average shows and I don’t think [Ryan] Raburn has either. But people are all hyped up and they should be. We’re not perfect. We all know that. And we all know that this is not going to be easy, but everybody’s hyped up. But sometimes people don’t see the forest through the trees. They just focus on one thing.”