A few years back, I compiled a list of the Top 10 stories from Tigers season. As you can guess, the list was entirely subjective and not altogether agreed upon by Fungo readers. The disagreement, of course, centered on where the stories ranked from one to 10. For this year’s list, numbers 10 through six are more or less interchangeable, I think. The top-five stories will be ranked in order.
So here’s my list of the top 10 Tigers stories from 2012, which are subject to change if Dave Dombrowski does something incredible at the Winter Meetings this week.
Number 10: Brandon Inge Released
We all have our favorite Brandon Inge moment, don’t we? For as much good as he did for the Tigers in his 12 seasons in Detroit — moving from infield to catcher and back, making an All-Star Game appearance and a slot in the Home Run Derby (!) — my two lasting memories are of him making the final out of the 2006 World Series and the 2011 ALCS.
Granted, he did some damage in those series. In fact, Inge was darned good in the postseason for Detroit. In 2006 he hit just .133 in the ALDS against the Yankees, but in the ALCS against Oakland he hit .333 with a 1.104 OPS. And in the World Series against the Cardinals, he hit .353 with an OPS of .859.
What’s more, in last year’s postseason run, Inge hit .429/1.071 against New York in the ALDS and .267/.856 against Texas in the ALCS.
But it was those regular-seasons that frustrated Tigers fans to no end. Countless games that usually amounted to a couple of untimely pop outs and, oh, those strikeouts. As sure as the sunrise, Inge would make a remarkable defensive play that wouldn’t exactly soothe the frustration but it would make one say with a serving of resignation, Well, at least he can do that.
Inge just kept coming back and kept living in his own reality-distortion field. Replaced by Pudge Rodriguez at catcher? Claim to be: a) just as good defensively, and b) ready to compete for the starting job. Same thing when the Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera and installed him a third in 2008. Oh, and pull the same thing this past winter when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and reunited Cabrera with the hot corner.
On April 26, the Tigers cut Inge loose after nine games and two hits: a homer and a double. After more than 1,400 games in a Tigers uniform he was a free agent and four days later signed with the A’s. In short order, Inge exacted some revenge on Detroit when the club visited Oakland on May 10. Inge hit a grand slam off short-time Tiger Collin Balester to turn a 10-2 game into a 10-6 affair. The Tigers wound up winning by that score.
The following night, Inge went yard again, this time off Duane Below in Oakland’s 11-4 win.
Bottom line: Brandon Inge, as enigmatic and infuriating as he could be, was a great representative of the Detroit Tigers. And his departure was a big story in 2012.