In every sport, on every team, there is a group of players that the fans love to hate. The Texas Rangers are no different. Until this morning the Rangers had the big three: Alex Financial Burden Rodriguez, Josh Can’t Handle the Sunlight Hamilton, and C.J. No Clutch Gene Wilson, and now Ian Infield Pop-up Kinsler. Some of these players are just villains of their own doing and are deserving of the title in this Baseball Town, but others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and had their goat gotten by some member of media.
Let’s start trying to sort out this business about villainy by taking a look at the villain of the entire MLB: Alex Rodriguez. Now for Alex, I am not going to try to defend his character or make a statement on whether or not I thought he took copious amounts of illegal performance enhancing substances and took full advantage of the MLB in doing so. All I am do is inform you about what Alex did while he was in the great state of Texas playing the great game of baseball. Let’s take it back and set the scene. The year is 2001 and Alex Rodriguez is by far the best player in baseball, nobody can even dream of getting close. He is a fantastic defensive short stop, he has won the silver slugger 4 out of his 5 full seasons in the Majors. Alex is 25 years old and after making the playoffs in 1999, the Rangers went 71-91 and missed the playoffs. The manager is Buck Showalter, Michael Young is a second baseman, Tom Hicks is the owner, and Mark Texeira is still in the minors. Tom Hicks got a little too excited to get this young slugger on his team and ended up paying him the biggest contract in MLB history at 251 million dollars for 10 years. Love him or hate him, Alex had some of his best years in Texas, and some of the best years any short stop has ever had. In his brief 3 seasons here, he hit 52, 57, and 47 homers, 135, 142, and 118 RBI, and hit .318, .300, and .298. Those numbers are absolutely insane from any slugger, but from a short stop who won 2 gold gloves in his 3 seasons here? Those numbers were out of this world. Alex also won his first of 3 MVP’s in Texas in 2003. His other awards while include 3 Silver Sluggers, and 3 Hank Aaron Awards, awarded to the best hitter in baseball, which he only won 1 year while not in Texas. My point for all of this is that if you want to make A-rod a villain, don’t do so because he left Texas. His 57 homers in one season is still the franchise record. No team could be built around a contract like his, there just wasn’t enough money to buy other winning pieces. Also don’t blame him for wanting to be traded or for what we got in return for him. So let A-rod be a villain for his steroid controversy, not for being the best player in baseball on a mediocre team for 3 years and providing some fantastic entertainment.
Next on the docket is C.J. Wilson. For the first 5 years of his major league career C.J. was a reliever, and a good one at that. In those 5 years, C.J. piled up 52 saves and 46 holds. In Texas, C.J. was only a starter for two years, but those were two very impressive regular seasons that he put together. He put together 427.1 innings, a 31-15 record, and ERA’s of 3.35 and 2.94. This man was the ace of a world series team for 1.5 years, excluding the Cliff Lee time, and he was a very good regular seasons. I emphasize again regular seasons. For a man who pitched the late innings in the bullpen, this man has a real knack for crumpling under pressure situations. In his 9 post season starts, C.J. has allowed 28 earned runs in 52.1 innings, along with 10 homers, and 29 walks. Normally I don’t put much stock into a pitchers record because of how skewed it can be, but the post season record is where wins are the only thing that matter and C.J. only has one post season win and 5 losses. Also if you remember his one All-Star inning in 2011, C.J. let up 3 hits, including a three run homer to our Prince Fielder to lose home field advantage in the World Series which might have changed the outcome of that series. I’m not going to go there right now just let that simmer for a bit. I don’t blame him for signing with the Angels, they offered him a far better contract and weren’t as deterred by his post season performance as the Rangers were. In an article by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News in April of 2012 about how C.J. Wilson thought the Rangers wasted his time in the off season. If you want to vilify C.J. do so for his post season performance and general snark attitude towards the Rangers
Josh Hamilton is the perfect embodiment of the quote in one of the new Batman movies: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Josh brought Texas the once in a generation come back stories that absolutely everyone loves to cheer for. Josh wrote a piece about it for ESPN the Magazine, with help from Tim Keown in July of 2007. Josh brought the Rangers to 2 world series, won a batting title and league MVP in 2010, and was a hero to root for in his 5 years here. The reason Josh became a villain in the fans’ eyes was because of the perfect storm of atrocities that ended the 2012 season and off season where Josh signed with the rival Angels and did not let the Rangers match the offer. Hamilton had a famous comment that sparked outrage in the Ranger fan base claiming that Texas wasn’t a “Baseball Town.” Ranger fans took this personally and Josh received a large amount of boos every time he came to bat in Arlington. After game 162, Josh Hamilton tipped his cap to Rangers on his way back to the dugout in the 9th inning to receive a swift chorus of booing from the crowd. In a press conference after the game, Hamilton had this to say about the tip of the cap:
“That was just to let them know that no matter how bad they boo me or bring up things from my past, I still love them. There was nothing sarcastic about it.”
When I heard this comment, it made me rethink my dislike of Josh. He brought this franchise so much and is still someone with a great comeback story to root for. I urge you to reconsider Josh as a villain.
Lastly a recent Rangers hero turned bad, or was he just a victim of bad timing? This morning Robert Sanchez of ESPN The Magazine wrote an article about how Ian Kinsler hoped the Rangers went 0-162 this season. I was absolutely floored when I read the article. Kinsler and the Rangers appeared to leave on amicable terms. When I stepped back and though about it, it made some sense that Kinsler was this outraged with the Rangers. His main problem appeared to lie with General Manager Jon Daniels who he called a “sleazeball.” Jon Daniels’ job is not to befriend players, but to make the best decisions to make his team better. Kinsler’s closest friend in all his years of playing was Michael Young, and it Kinsler seems to have had a problem with how the situation with how Young was traded and forced to move positions so many times in his career. Ian also had a problem when he was asked, probably by Jon Daniels, to move positions from second base to first to make room for young prospect Jurickson Profar. This would cause issues with most long-tenured players. Veterans feel that they are entitled to stay at their position until they prove inferior to some other player who has earned the right to usurp them. Kinsler probably felt that Profar hadn’t yet earned the right to displace him because of the lack of experience at the big league level. This is a very valid point, Profar didn’t have an all together very impressive season in the majors in 2013 or in 2012 in his very limited appearance. The blatant disrespect that Kinsler felt asking him to move positions for some kid combined with the mistreatment of Ian’s best friend and mentor, made Kinsler’s frustration with the organization that have given him the opportunity and training to become a baseball All-Star. All of this was right on the surface for Kinsler, who has been known for speaking his mind, when he said he wanted the Rangers to lose every game this season. Ian was a key cornerstone of this franchise for 8 years, and had two of his best seasons when the Rangers went to the World Series. Don’t let Ian’s frustration with one person, who has been a huge part of it’s improvement, make Ian a villain. With these recent comments I expect Ian to be booed in his return to Arlington, which I find very sad. If you plan on being one of those booing, be sure to think long and hard if he deserves to be up there with the other Rangers villains.