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Inge takes issue with lack of respect

Inge takes issue with lack of respect

ST. LOUIS -- Brandon Inge spent the day in his hotel room, clicking channels, and it didn't take long for him to get clicked off.

ESPN. CNN. FOX News. All kept showing tapes of Kenny Rogers dealing in Game 2 of the World Series with a discolored left hand, accompanied by suspicion-casting, sometimes snide, narrative.

By the time Inge arrived in Busch Stadium for the Tigers' late afternoon workout, that was one fiery third baseman pacing in the visitors locker room.

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Maybe it was all an innocent incident frozen by curious TV cameras. Maybe it was just a bit of everyday gamesmanship. Maybe it was even an ultimate compliment, the perception that a near-42-year-old lefty couldn't put up 23 straight scoreless postseason innings without a little help.

Maybe Tony La Russa even pulled his punch, in a rules-enforcement sense.

None of it mattered to Inge, who drew his own conclusion.

"This is another prime example of people trying to discredit our team," Inge said. "He goes out there battling ... whatever he has on his hands, I don't even care, and people try to discredit what we're doing here."

Inge has been doing a slow burn actually since the start of the postseason. He has the impression that teams beaten by the Tigers have considered it an insult.

What could possibly have given him that idea?

"We beat the Yankees [in the Division Series], they wanted to fire Joe Torre," Inge said. "We beat Oakland [in the ALCS], they fired their manager [Ken Macha].

"It's like they're saying, 'You should be embarrassed to have lost to the Tigers.' No one gives us credit for being the team we are."

The Tigers are the team tied a game apiece with the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series. But they keep getting remembered, more prominently, as the team that lost 119 games in 2003.

"I got tired of hearing that, too. Like we aren't supposed to be here," Inge said. "We are a good ballclub, and everyone wants to discredit whatever we're doing.

"This is something that fired me up from the get-go."

Around Inge, various takes were being expressed on the Rogers issue.

Closer Todd Jones implied the Cardinals hitters should've been glad Rogers had tried something to improve his grip of the ball on a cold Michigan evening.

"I know stuff I've tried in the past for a better feel for the ball," Jones said, "and if you ask hitters, I think they'd rather have me have a good grip on the ball."

Coach Andy Van Slyke went old-school.

"There's a plaque in Cooperstown right now of a guy [Gaylord Perry] who wrote a book about how he cheated," Van Slyke said, "and I'm not accusing Kenny of cheating, that's not what I'm saying. To me, it's like yesterday's breakfast, I want to throw it back up."

Detroit manager Jim Leyland didn't want to even deal with that dish.

When asked for a day-after comment, Leyland said, "I'm not going to chew yesterday's breakfast."

And, so on. But Inge took the whole matter personally, interpreting it as the continuation of a dis-string he detected long ago.

"I sat there watching ESPN and the news, watching everything, and everyone is talking about whatever was on his hands," Inge said. "To be honest with you, they're trying to discredit a guy who is a great pitcher, in my opinion."

Great pitchers have been known to go to great lengths to, well, remain great. The list of suspected and/or convicted runs from the aforementioned Gaylord Perry, the neo-king of the spitball, to Joe Niekro, who once was found with an emery board in his back pocket.

"I'm sure every manager has known, or had on his own staff, players who use pine tar or dirt or resin to excess," Van Slyke said.

Jones went one better, relating a quick sermon by a former teammate the first time he and his old manager met as rivals.

"If you have the umpires check me out, I'm going to drill your guys," the nameless pitcher warned, according to Jones. "You didn't mind me scuffing the ball when I pitched for you."

However valid the suspicions of Rogers, however healthy the skepticism in view of the evidence, to Inge it all came back to people being compelled to find an explanation for the Tigers' success.

"What did we do, lose the division [to the Twins] on the last day of the season? We were in the lead all year, and everyone's asking, 'How are they doing this?'"

Inge provided an answer. A simple, uncomplicated, unsoiled answer: "Bottom line, we are a good team. And people will just have to deal with it."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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