Inge seeks Final Vote for first All-Star nod
Tigers third baseman enjoying resurgence with stick, glove
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brandon Inge sometimes seems as though he commands any ball hit between shortstop and the third-base stands. That's how good his range is.
The All-Star Game is out of his control, but not out of his grasp. It's now up to Tigers fans and others to help get him there. It's going to take a lot of mouse clicks and phone-button presses.
Though Inge didn't crack the initial roster for the Midsummer Classic, Detroit's slick-fielding, power-hitting third baseman is one of five American League players up for the lone remaining roster spot in the Sprint Final Vote. It'll be one more chance to put in a player that his manager and teammates agree deserves to go for the first time in his career.
Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, rarely one to campaign for a player, couldn't help himself over the past few days.
"I just hope he's on the [All-Star] team somehow," Leyland said in Oakland. "He deserves it. He should at least be [Rays third baseman Evan] Longoria's backup."
With a voting surge, Inge can be. And with the Tigers at home this week while balloting goes on, he should have a fair chance. But don't expect him to campaign for himself.
"I'm honored to be considered," Inge said. "I'm very happy for my teammates that are going right now. I would love to go, and it would be an honor. But I can't control it. I just play as hard as I can and be the person that I am."
Now in its eighth year, the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting at MLB.com and tigers.com began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 9. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote mobile ballot text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard rate messaging fees also may apply; check with your carrier. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555.
Inge is one of five candidates for the AL's final spot in the Midsummer Classic on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, pitting him against Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, Blue Jays left fielder Adam Lind and Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.
What arguably makes Inge stand out is the combination of offense and defense. He long since earned his reputation as one of baseball's best defensive third basemen and overall athletes. His fielding skill was a big reason behind his return to the hot corner this season in a revamped Tigers lineup.
Inge's 155 assists and 25 double plays topped all AL third basemen through Sunday, and his regular appearances on highlight reels for his acrobatic plays can't hurt in a balloting battle that lasts just four days.
With Detroit's pitchers benefiting from his outs in the field, Tigers All-Stars weren't shy about campaigning for him when news came out Sunday.
"I believe wholeheartedly that he should go," said Justin Verlander, a Final Vote candidate as a rookie in 2006. "He's one of the main catalysts for this team, and one of the main reasons why we're in first place right now. I think he's earned it."
Yet what has separated this season from any other for Inge is his bat, powering a career turnaround at the plate. Only Longoria and Toronto's Scott Rolen have a higher OPS among AL third basemen than Inge at .874, to go with a .269 average and 54 RBIs. He hit his team-high 19th home run Sunday.
More than a few of those home runs have proved critical. He had a go-ahead home run that powered the Tigers ahead of the Cubs on June 23, a game the Tigers eventually pulled out, then hit a two-out, ninth-inning homer June 28 to push Detroit past Houston.
His numbers hold their own against his competition. He has about as many RBIs and a higher batting average than Pena, as many home runs and RBIs as Lind, and a higher OPS than Figgins or Kinsler.
"The numbers he's put up, he deserves to be there," four-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera said.
Yet with so little time to vote, part of the battle comes down to how teams can get as many fans as possible to cast their online ballot. For that, the Tigers are gearing up for a major push. Tigers vice president of communications Ron Colangelo said the team is planning a "full-court press" to draw fans to vote, especially at Comerica Park.
That goes for fans at their own computers, too. Those who vote for Inge online will be automatically entered to win an Inge autographed bat.
In Detroit, he has been one of the most popular Tigers for years, so that shouldn't a problem. Now, that popularity has to spread.
Inge is hoping his play speaks for itself.
"You should not worry about things that are out of your control," Inge said. "Play as hard as you can, do what you can, but this is one of those things that's definitely out of my hands. Whatever happens, happens. It's an honor either way."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.