The Texas Rangers start a 3-game series against Nelson Cruz and the Baltimore Orioles. It will be the first time Cruz has returned to Arlington since game 163 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Two hundred and forty-three days have passed since the Nelson Cruz stepped out of the Globe Park Life, then known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. That means there has been 57 games played this season without Nelson Cruz as a Texas Ranger.
When he steps back on the field today will fans welcome him back with open arms with warms cheers and the friendly chant of “Cruuuuuuz” that echos around the ballpark? Or, will fans show him the same kind of welcome that Josh Hamilton received. Fans almost in unison booed Hamilton almost to the point of redlining the decibel meter.
For both Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton, returning to a former team’s ballpark is like entering a Roman coliseum. The only question for Cruz now, has enough time passed to allow old wounds heal?
What wounds you may ask? Well for starters many haven’t moved on past game 6 of the 2011 World Series. That was one of the toughest plays to watch over and over. Also, and time Tim McCarver or Joe Buck do Rangers broadcast they love to open up old wounds, especially when the Rangers play the St. Louis Cardinals.
Some have equaled Nelson Cruz to the 1986 Red Sox Bill Buckner, which is a totally unfair comparison. Red Sox fans didn’t forgive and forget Buckner until the Sox won the World Series in 2004.
To make things worse for Nelson Cruz was his involvement in the BALCO scandal. Cruz stayed quiet on the matter for a long time and it wasn’t until the suspensions were handed down that he made a public statement and apologized.
As if being caught cheating wasn’t bad enough, Cruz decided not to appeal the suspension. That mean’t the Rangers lost him from August 4, 2013 until game 163. Cruz could have appealed the suspension and worked the system to at least have his suspension start at the beginning of the 2014 season.
But looking at the big picture with free agency coming up, it’s hard to blame him on the decision to not appeal. Teams wouldn’t be fighting over him if they had to wait 50 games to see him in action. It was hard enough for Nelson Cruz to find a new team after he declined the Texas Rangers qualify offer.
Nelson Cruz returns today with one of the hottest bats in the leagues right now. He has a batting line of .314/.384/.672/1.055 with 20 home runs (leads the majors), 52 RBI (leads the majors) and 13 doubles. He’s basically tearing the cover off the ball every chance he gets. The Orioles signed Cruz to a very cheap one year deal for 8 million dollars.
As well as he’s hitting, that might make the return a little more dramatic either way.
But even with all the old wounds, he’s did do a lot of great things with the Rangers. He was the 2011 ALCS MVP, he was a 2-time All-star while he was with the Rangers. He defense was never the best, but he always made up for it with his bat.
There have been many games won by Nelson Cruz over the years, and Rangers fans got to that a lot during his 8 years with the club. He did take a bit of a fall from grace when he left Arlington, but after 243 days some of those old wounds should be healed up.
There will probably some boos upon his return today, but at this point it seems it should be time served. He did the right thing by taking his suspension and owning up to it. Yes, the timing was very poor, but he did manage to get in shape and stayed game ready for the play-in game against the Rays. Also, it was more of a Jon Daniels decision for Cruz to leave the Rangers. Cruz didn’t leave for a mega-multi million dollar contract to a rival.
Hopefully if you go to the one of the 3-games in the Orioles series, you’ll give Nelson Cruz a heart warming chant of “Cruuuuuuz” that once again echos throughout the ballpark. He played his heart out for the Rangers, always gave 100%, and was part of the two very magical and memorable World Series. He’s missed by many and if things could have been a little different he might still be a Rangers.