The first real heat of the year has enveloped the Florida Key’s like a musky blanket. I’m not sure if I like it or not, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with Florida. Still it’s February, granted late February, and I guess there’s a reason so many teams start Spring Training down here.
Chances are, the Tigers are going to be a pretty good team this year. I mean, some of that depends on how bad the Twins and White Sox are and how good the Indians and Royals can be, but yeah, everyone pretty much agrees it’ll be a bit upsetting if the Tigers don’t win the division.
Of course we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. You know as well as I do that the Tigers need to play every single game. Think 2008. Now don’t, don’t get depressed. We know nothing is guaranteed. Ever. There hasn’t even been a Spring Training game played yet. Joel Zumaya hasn’t even had season ending—–wait, well there hasn’t even been an official Spring Training game yet and we’ll leave it at that.
But, this notion that “hope springs eternal” really gets to me every year, and frankly, while I love the Spring Training games, the position battles, and the fact that every team is still 0-0, this final week before there are actual games is nearly unbearable, and even then it’s pretty bad, but at least it’s an official start to something.
My old man finally is getting out of bed, I hear him shuffling upstairs, he’s probably going to want to talk about Brandon Inge as soon as he hits the kitchen table. The guy hates Inge with a passion of a thousand knives (I don’t know what that means but it sure sounds good.)
What am I supposed to say? I’m the expert on baseball. I’ve collected a check because I’m an expert on baseball, but I’m tired of working in baseball. I just want a year where can enjoy the game, like when I was a kid and this old man of mine used to ditch work at the Chrysler plant, pull me out of school, and sneak us both down to Tiger Stadium. Man those were the days. Now it’s all complicated. All about money and winning and making sure the Twins aren’t any good.
Here he is. The shuffling has reached its pinnacle. He stands before me, a man who has gone long beyond his prime. He is wearing a blue bathrobe, the cotton strap tied tight and crooked around his waist. His shoulders sag, but not because he’s carrying anything. It’s due to old age. He looks tired. He says, “What’s this about Brandon Inge trying to play second base now?”
Baseball connects us. It always has and it probably always will. I’d like to think our relationship has more to it than a game other men play, but I haven’t talked to him about much else after my mother died. He hasn’t said much either. It’s our way of blocking the grief, even after all these years.
“The guy has a year left on his contract, pops. He’ll probably make like Bobby Higginson when he leaves so you’ll want to stay away when no one signs him next year.” I opened the fridge and grabbed a carton of eggs and a package of bacon. “On the flipside he had mono last year so his offensive production should improve. And, do you really want Ramon Santiago at second base? Boring. Seriously. And Ryan Raburn? Well that wouldn’t be boring, but if you put Raburn’s defense next to Inge’s offense, you’d probably start laughing when asked which one you would prefer. There’s drama here but it’s not like Inge shouldn’t get the chance to compete. And stop saying you’re tired of him. You’re not tired of him, you’re tired of work, of school, of homework, of commuting, of paying taxes, you’re not tired of Brandon Inge.”
“I’m tired of you defending him,” he croaked. “And what on earth are the Tigers doing still employing Inge and Santiago? Both of them were on that 2003 team where they lost every game. They don’t know how to win!”
I did laugh at that. “This is probably going to end up being some platoon situation that makes no sense, but what are you supposed to expect when you are given the choice of those players.”
“I’d rather have Whitaker back. I don’t care that he’s nearly as old as me, he’d be better than these jokers.”