It pains me to write an article like this. The Pittsburgh Pirates are generally not an organization that over-hypes their players, as least not compared to some of the other larger market teams. Actually, to be fair, it’s probably more of a media issue than the doing of anyone in the organization.
Still, every front office has to sell its players to the fans and in some regards, to the team itself.
If the Pirates are guilty of anything over the years, it’s over-emphasizing the value of bringing in the classic “veteran” to be a clubhouse “presence” and show the younger guys how things are done the “right way”.
There have been too many of these marketing campaigns over the last 20 years to mention that have been really nothing more than acquiring an older, past-his-prime player who won’t embarrass himself or the team when he’s out there, who was available on the cheap. From Pat Meares to Jeromy Burnitz to Lyle Overbay, their value, for the most part, has always been over-rated.
Brandon Inge unfortunately may fall into that category.
Other than the “veteran presence” angle (which cannot be completely discounted to be honest), what did the Pirates see in signing the career .233 right-handed hitter last winter? Yes, they got him at a 75 percent salary cut, but after hitting just .218 last season combined for the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, Inge’s offensive production could only be seen as further waning.
It wasn’t like he was a great hitter ever to begin with. In six of his 12 seasons with Detroit, he hit for a mere .205 BA or less. No doubt he fit well with the Tigers team in his many years there, taking walks and being a decent on-base guy along with being a solid catcher, but that’s not his role now.
Like much of the National League, the Pirates are not disciples of the Billy Beane school of baseball. They need a right-hand power bat off the bench that can drive in some runs here and there. Inge’s current .193 BA with just 4 RBIs just doesn’t cut it; and with just two walks this season, he’s not even getting on base these days.
No doubt Inge is athletic and can play a bunch of different positions without embarrassing himself out there, but so can a lot of younger guys who can cover a lot more ground than a 36-year-old former catcher whose knees have to have some debilitating mileage one them.
Inge is the proverbial “good guy” in the club house, but his overall value to the team has to be in question. There’s another spot on the team for character-type players who help the team more with their know-how than playing ability — it’s called coach.
Inge would probably make a great one, but his days on the playing field are coming to an end, and the Pirate’s need to upgrade their bench production if they want to make a serious playoff run this summer.