Ian Kinsler dropped an atomic bomb on a pretty staid spring training and probably threw a few gallons of jet fuel on what could become an interesting rivalry with Detroit, and now everybody is up in arms about it. Most Ranger fans, from what I’ve read so far, are angry with Ian for his comments. I’m not. In fact, I’m glad Ian said what he did.
What? I’m not fuming mad and ready to hang him in effigy? Nope. Not even close. I’m glad that Ian Kinsler spoke from his heart and said what was on his mind. Do you think he’s the first athlete to be traded away to feel this way? Or that he’s the first aging star, forced aside to make room for the young up-and-comer who feels wronged?
Kinsler could have said all the right things. The things he was supposed to say. You know the deal. “I’m so happy to be here. I wish my former teammates all the best. I’m looking forward to a new challenge.” Blah blah blah. It’s what the media has dubbed Coachspeak: the art of talking without saying anything.
In our society today, we grumble about this all the time, especially in the media. Athletes and politicians are the worst/best at it. Some are so well versed in Coachspeak that people just quit listening all together. (Paging Mack Brown!) Yet, when someone dares to speak their mind, they are instantly vilified for it. “OMG! How could they say that? Person X must be a complete idiot.”
So, Ian Kinsler spoke his mind. He’s hurt. He’s carried a chip on his shoulder his entire career and it enabled him to become one of the best second basemen of his generation and a Ranger legend. Now the team that gave him his shot has given up on him. He was frustrated by a team that was crumbling around him and didn’t get along with his boss. He disagreed with what was going on with the team. He has reasons to feel the way he does.
In some ways he is a bit misguided and he appears to have a hard time grappling with change. He is apparently the only person who didn’t realize that it was time for Michael Young to move on. C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton have been let go, and although the team has struggled to replace their production, those guys haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in their new homes either. Unfortunately, watching your teammates walk out the door is a fact of life every athlete must deal with.
Then there’s the fact that he’s angry at leaving the Rangers. He didn’t want to go! I’ve watched a lot of Ranger baseball in my life. I’ve seen a lot of talented guys who wore the uniform with one foot out the door. (Hello, Josh Hamilton). I’ve seen a lot of guys land here because they were washed up and not much use to anybody else and a lot of young guys who never would have had a shot with a good franchise. How refreshing is it to see a guy be upset about leaving? In a sports world that has become increasingly mercenary; where the only loyalty some guys seem to have is to their accountant, I like to see a guy who was happy where he was. It’s all too rare.
As to some of the more damning things he said. Granted, the quotes about being uncomfortable with a leadership role didn’t cast him in a very good light. However, you can’t make someone something that they are not. Some people just are not leaders. Was his dropoff in 2013 a direct result of that burden? Was he pushing too hard? Just being the longest tenured player on a team doesn’t make them a leader. Trying to be that guy, if everyone in the clubhouse knows that you’re not, is actually worse. You become a phony and everyone sees through the act.
Then there’s the doozy. Is Jon Daniels really a sleaze ball? I couldn’t tell you. I don’t work with the guy. Most of us never will. Being a GM is a tough job. It’s a difficult alchemy, putting together a winning team, then trying to maintain it. You have to make tough choices and often times, those choices may not be popular at the time. Daniels has had his ups and downs in the job, but he did put together a team that made two straight World Series. On the flip side, he’s also put together a team that has choked so much over the last four years that there is a movement afoot to rename the Heimlich the Ranger Manuever.
Kinsler obviously feels wronged for Daniel’s decision to open a spot for Jurickson Profar. He feels betrayed. The player is not the best person to judge when it is time to move or move on. That’s the GM’s job. So what if he thinks he’s got more left in the tank? Daniels felt the time was right to make a change, that doesn’t make him a sleaze ball.
The stuff about Nolan Ryan, on the other hand, is fascinating. Anybody who has followed sports in the Metroplex knows what can happen when success and egos clash. A power struggle at the top of the organization is pretty much the status quo in D/FW. Who does deserve credit for the Rangers success? Daniels put the pieces together, but did Nolan’s presence and leadership instill something that was missing? It’s hard to say. It does stand to reason, though, that Nolan Ryan didn’t wake up one day and suddenly find himself on the outside looking in for no reason. Jon Daniels is the one who benefited from his leaving. It’s circumstantial to be sure, but Ian opened the can of worms, why not dig in?
Truth is, time will tell the tale, all the way around. Beginning March 31, Ian Kinsler will have plenty of chances to prove to Jon Daniels that he was still valuable. If he outplays Jurickson Profar, if the Tigers win the World Series, then he will be vindicated. If he struggles and last year’s drop-off becomes a trend, then it will be Daniels who has the last laugh.
If Jon Daniels is pulling a Jerry Krause by trying to tear down a champion to show that he can rebuild it, then that will play out too. It didn’t work out too well for Krause. It hasn’t worked out so well for the guy whose team plays across the parking lot either. Daniels is putting his stamp on this team and in time all will see if he was right or wrong.
In the meantime, the 2014 season just got a lot more interesting.