Inge plays hurt, hurts team, heads for surgery

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Players are almost always praised for remaining in the lineup despite an injury, with most people viewing it as a mix of toughness, competitiveness, and being a good teammate.
That’s certainly true in many cases, but what about the guys who stay in the lineup despite an injury and then perform horribly while clearly at much less than full strength? Brandon Inge was a perfect example of that this season, as his knees began bothering him in early July.
At the time he was having a fantastic season, hitting .275/.367/.521 with 18 homers while making his first All-Star team, but he was diagnosed with microtears in the patella tendons of both knees and went on to bat just .189/.266/.303 during the final three months while starting 81 times.
That entire time announcers, reporters, and teammates constantly praised Inge’s toughness and willingness to play through pain. In theory those are certainly commendable traits, but in reality he contributed to the Tigers’ late-season fade by hurting the team with his horrible post-injury production.
And now he’s scheduled for knee surgery after an MRI exam revealed more damage than initially discovered. He’s expected to be healthy in time for spring training, which will be crucial for the Tigers in 2010. They can’t afford another extended stretch of uselessness from third base just because Inge is a tough guy.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?