Inge: No hard feelings on release

One of the last Tigers players to file past Brandon Inge’s locker on their way out of the clubhouse and on to New York was Octavio Dotel. He has only been a Tiger for a few months, but he played against Inge for years at plenty of stops.

“I don’t know how you do it, 13 teams,” Inge joked with Dotel as they hugged.

“You keep smiling,” Dotel answered with the smile of a well-traveled veteran.

Inge already had that down.

As long as Inge’s release had been speculated by many, anticipated by some, dreaded by others, the finality of it Thursday — and the timing of it especially — hit the clubhouse hard. There were several red eyes in the clubhouse, including Inge’s.

If his heart was broken, though, he didn’t show it. Odd as it seemed, he handled his release better than his teammates. It was the end of a 12-year Tigers tenure, longest by any player in Detroit since Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker retired, but it was also a fresh start.

“I could see the direction it was going,” Inge said. “Not so much today, but just the direction in general. You can tell when you’re not really getting much playing time. You can tell the lineup he really wants to go with and how you are. Like I said, it’s no hard feelings. If I can’t help this team, I’ll try to go somewhere else and help.”

Inge had arrived at Comerica Park Thursday morning with his bags packed for New York, the Tigers’ next stop. He wasn’t expecting something would happen at this point, but he knew instantly what was happening when someone from the Tigers called him into manager Jim Leyland’s office immediately after the game.

“I mean, I didn’t play in the game,” Inge said, “so there was really no other reason for them to call me in before a road trip.”

When he walked in, he found manager Jim Leyland, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, and vice president/assistant GM Al Avila waiting for him.

Alex Avila has had the locker next to Inge for the past two-plus years. He didn’t know anything was happening until he saw Inge shaking hands with other teammates.

“Everybody kept giving him a hug,” Avila said, “and I was [ticked] off about the game and the way we’ve been playing, and then he says that he got released. I’m like ‘Dang. It’s just an awesome day today.’”

He was being sarcastic, of course. He knew Inge for years well before he became a Tiger, back when he was Al Avila’s son.

“I’ve known Brandon for like 10 years now,” he said. “Ever since I came here, when I was just a fan, he’s always been kind of like the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers, always doing so much for the community. Kind of like a fixture. When the team was bad, to kind of make them turn it around and be competitive year-in and year-out, he’s always been in the thick of things. Definitely a big part of this community and this organization.

“He’d always joke around with me when I was a sophomore in high school. Kind of from the get-go, he’s treated me like a little brother. I remember when I was drafted and I was catching — and he had went back to catching [in 2008] — I remember coming into the clubhouse right before I had to leave to West Michigan after I got drafted and he’s like, hurry up and get up here so I don’t have to catch anymore. Just stuff like that. I mean, great guy.”

When the Tigers called a team meeting in Cleveland at the end of last April, Inge and Avila were leading it. Victor Martinez, who eventually took a leadership role on the team, was out on a rehab assignment at that point. Inge and Avila helped sort things out.

“Something that I learned from him,” he said, “is one way that you gain respect and become a leader on a team is through your actions and the way you treat people. And I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a great family that has taught me those lessons and also be able to play and experience Major League life next to people like Brandon. Just life lessons you can’t be taught anywhere else.”

Ramon Santiago knows about life lessons with Inge, too. They were teammates on the 2003 team that lost 119 games. They’ve been the last remaining connections to that club ever since Jeremy Bonderman was gone.

Santiago, too, took it particularly hard.

“That’s why it’s hard, because he’s been my teammate for so long,” Santiago said, looking down at the floor while he talked. “And now, it’s tough. But Brandon is a tough guy. I know he’s going to bounce back. He’s going to work hard. He’s a good player.”

Santiago was talking quietly in a clubhouse that was eerily silent, save for people wishing Inge good luck. To many, it was the end of an era. Inge was trying to look at it as a fresh start.

“That’s just the business side of it,” Inge said. “You’ve been around this game long enough you understand how it works. So yeah, of course you don’t let it affect you in any way on the field. But yeah, you prepare yourself. It’s more just common sense.

“I’m always the guy that will cross that bridge when I get to it. And it looks like somebody took out the bridge, so I’ll find another way around.”

 

12 Comments

And now the Raburn-bashing can begin! Seriously, glad to see them make this decision now instead of waiting another month. It is obvious Inge just doesn’t have the ability to contribute much or to accept that fact and it is better for the psyche of the team to start moving on now, whether the fans or players agree with this move or not.

Never wished Brandon anything but the best as a person, but I’ve gotten a little immune to roster changes. My heart was broken when Pudge was traded, so I boycotted the Tigers for the remainder of 2008. Seems silly now, but couldn’t bring myself to watch. Funny thing is Pudge bounced back between the World Baseball Classic, a short stay with the Astros and a longer stay with the Nationals. Was great to see him win over new clubhouses and through chats I was able to read how all the new fans came to love and appreciate his talent and boundless passion for the game, like I did. While Inge won’t command the same reverence that Pudge brought, he should gather a new fan base wherever he lands. Best Wishes to him and his family.

While some might bash Rayburn, most will not. It seemed to be Inge’s comments that turned
many fans against him. I live in the D and have listened daily to those opinions on local radio. Fans felt he was making too many excuses and not owning up. Now that this page has been turned let’s just get back to supporting the Tigers. The hits will come and
games will be won.

should never have boo’d him the past few weeks. sad that detroit fans had to do that. then again, a younger me boo’d bobby back in the day. good luck to brandon.

Went to the game today and just got back to GR. 1st row in the right field bleachers. The Boesch attemp on the fly ball was right in front of me. But before that I said Coke should pitch to Figgins. I said Dirks should have bunted for the safety squeeze. I saw way too many fly ball outs from the Tigers. Can we send Leyland to Toledo?

nope, Toledo is doing just fine as is thank you!!!

I’ve tried, and sometimes failed, to stay out of the Inge debate. It is entirely appropriate now to say some words (jeez, sounds like a funeral).
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I was never on either side of that famous polarization.
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Sometimes I liked Brandon a lot, such as while watching him trade quips with the fans along that pathway from the back fields in Lakeland, or when he made a dazzlingly athletic play at third, or seeing how much fun he had playing the game. He was always good for a laugh when my wife watched the games with me.
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At other times, he frustrated the heck out of me with his checked swings, never seeming to put any real thought into his hitting, instead relying on that God-given athleticism. At times I wished he’d just quit giving interviews at all, because it always seemed to only fire the kettle even hotter. I didn’t want him to enter that homerun derby after everyone in two cities pulled out all the stops to get him onto the All Star Team. I was downright angry with him after that play in Tampa last August, the way he didn’t own up to it, and the way he appeared to throw Santiago under the bus.
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At any rate, he’s been one of the boys these past years, and a big part of everything that has happened in building the team we see now. Brandon has been like that loveable but irritating family member.
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I’ve mentioned this before when I thought he was gone, so now that he’s gone for real I’ll mention it again. That double he ripped into the Metrodome corner off Jesse Crain in the 10th inning of game 163, scoring Don Kelly, would have been one of the biggest hits in Tigers history if we’d have held them in the bottom of the inning. That’s the memory I’ll keep.

I was also in rf bleachers(the loud guy yelling cmon tigers) and thought boesch should have had that fly ball that trailed away via the gusty wind.

I liked inge as a player and detroit supporter. It was time to part company though. Best of luck brandon in all your endeavors and thank you for being a tiger.

It needed to be done, should have been done prior to the season, but at least the debate is over. I love Inge and his pride for his team and city. I also am loving Avila more and more – he feels a real connection and is more emotional than I thought. That said for him to become a leader he has to put that in check, maybe he will take that torch and run with it.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Inge in the Tigers organization. Detroit actually did him a favor here, giving him a chance to go somewhere else to play. After this season, though, don’t be surprised to find him with a job as a minor league coach or manager. Look at all the cushy jobs Illitch gave the former Red Wings like Osgood, Maltby, and Draper. Inge lives in Detroit, and working in Toledo or West Michigan isn’t that far of a stretch. I actually did a write up on this scenario back in Feb:

http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/

–Mike

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