Reports are coming out of Pirates camp right now that Brandon Inge will make the Pirates opening day roster, along with Jonathan Sanchez, who will likely be named the fifth starter. While Inge might be a veteran presence in the clubhouse, it seems odd for him to be making the team out of camp, after a less than savory Spring Training, in which he his .162, and didn’t show much else. This has to leave a few questions for Pirates fans going forward, as to how in the world Inge actually made the roster.
The first answer you’ll hear is the typical “veteran leadership” type of answer, claiming that Inge will be able to show a lot of the younger Pirates how to conduct themselves in a more professional way, not riding too high or too low as the season progresses, since it’s such a long and arduous journey through 162 games. Honestly, I think that answer is nothing but garbage. The Pirates are already loaded with veterans, and clubhouse leaders (AJ Burnett, anyone?), and those guys can take care of business, and lead the younger players throughout the season. I understand that Clint Hurdle has some serious love for veterans who can come off the bench (such as Brad Hawpe, who was released a few days ago), but this is absurd. Veteran leadership is one thing, producing with the bat is another. This answer doesn’t fly.
Speaking of producing with the bat, let’s look at Inge’s recent numbers. Last year, with the Tigers Inge was batting at the level of a typical starting pitcher, with a triple slash of .100/.100/.300. After he ended up with the A’s, Inge did improve, but not to the point that you would hope for. His triple slash with the A’s was .226/.286/.389. Combined, that comes out to .218/.275/.383. As a young prospect, those numbers would merit a second opportunity to show improvement, at least through Spring Training. Problem is, Inge is anything but a prospect. He’s a 35 year old veteran of 12 seasons in the major leagues, who is not going to all of the sudden return to his prior form as a Tiger in the mid-2000s.
Inge’s fielding isn’t much to write home about either, he posted a .968 fielding percentage last year with Detroit and Oakland, while not displaying anything remarkable as far as range, and certainly not possessing the arm strength that he used to have back when he was younger. If you’re going to give a roster spot to a 35 year old, who has been pretty steadily declining at the plate over the last several years, and has shown little reason to believe he’s going to suddenly improve, he better be a first ballot hall of famer kind of guy like Chipper Jones (although his decline was more athletically than as a hitter), not just a guy like Inge, who was an all star quality player for a few years in a row, who has recently fallen off of a cliff.
If the Pirates are intent on leaving the horrible wasteland of losing that they’ve been in for the last 20 years, step one is not allowing guys like Inge to waste a roster spot on opening day. Dead weight is dead weight, and while the Pirates don’t have any superstars in waiting vying for bench spots, it’s still a complete and utter waste to keep a player this bad on your twenty-five man roster. If the Pirates plan on a winning season this year, this kind of thing just can’t happen anymore, no matter how hell bent Clint Hurdle is on having some old, washed up veteran on the team (remember Lyle Overbay?) for the duration of the season. This kind of move just boggles my mind in six different ways, and yet it seems to be a Pirates Spring Training ritual over the last several years. Let’s just hope this is the last time it happens.