The Tyler Seguin Trade wasn’t supposed to haunt the Bruins this quickly, Oklahoma wasn’t supposed to do that to Alabama, and Charlie Strong may not have been the first choice, but Adrian Beltre was basically a fallback, too.
I doubt Beltre is giving much thought to Florida State-Auburn, where 2012 Rangers draft pick and Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston will celebrate his 20th birthday on the national stage Monday night, and he probably doesn’t find it very interesting that J.P. Arencibia, whose birthday is tomorrow (on the three-year anniversary of Beltre’s signing with the Rangers), played his first minor league season for Auburn (New York, that is) and kicked off his second minor league season in the Florida State League, where he took off as a prospect.
Winston is from Alabama but committed to Florida State, while Arencibia is from Florida but committed to Tennessee, but if Arencibia had gone to Florida State, history likely changes for at least one player, as Buster Posey arrived in Tallahassee a year after Arencibia’s own college career began, and I’m fairly sure Beltre doesn’t care.
Beltre is probably thinking more about Prince Fielder, and how even in a massive down year in 2013 (.819 OPS) he outproduced every hitter Texas tried in the number three hole, namely (in order of appearances), Lance Berkman, Ian Kinsler (.677 OPS in that spot), Nelson Cruz, Alex Rios, and A.J. Pierzynski, and I’m guessing Beltre likes that a lot.
Fielder is probably thinking about Shin-Soo Choo, and how none of the primary leadoff hitters he’s played with in his nine seasons (Brady Clark, Rickie Weeks, Felipe Lopez, Austin Jackson) could do that.
Choo, who says he’d bat anywhere in the lineup and it wouldn’t alter his approach, is probably thinking about kicking off each game with Elvis Andrus, Fielder, and Beltre grabbing helmets behind him, and about how, if Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin take that next step, maybe for some stretches in 2014 that leadoff role for Choo in the first inning will seem in later innings like he’s hitting in the three hole himself.
Profar and Martin probably aren’t thinking much quite yet about getting back on the field, coming off their first (basically) full big league seasons and then winter stints together on Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic, where their teammates included Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre, who is some respects is this year’s version of Julio Borbon, but not really, and Dee Gordon, whose father Tom faced Fielder’s father Cecil 51 times in the big leagues, holding the slugger to a .213 batting average and a strikeout every fourth time up, which Arencibia’s detractors would say sounds pretty familiar.
I know Chase Cutler and Drake Detherage and Kendall Gill and Ty Holt and Will Kriska and Dominic Mele and Max Newberg and Preston Payne and the injured R.J. Ruais and Jake Storey and Preston Stout aren’t thinking about Arencibia or Beltre or Charlie Strong this morning, but instead about the Pelicans, and not the version that Andrus played for while in the Braves system or that Profar skipped while a Rangers farmhand. Those 11 are thinking about two hours from now, when they’ll play their first game together as Dallas Pelicans, not that this game counts, but then again not that any of them “count” when your eight- and nine-year-olds are simply out there playing the game and getting better at it, even on the first weekend in January, not that I’m trying to get all solipsistic on you.
Buster Olney (ESPN) thinks the Rangers have the best lineup in baseball (and the seventh-best rotation and fifth-best defense), Bob Nightengale (USA Today) predicts Texas returns to the World Series this year (against St. Louis), as does Gil LeBreton (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) (against the Dodgers), Neftali Feliz never wants to be a starter again (which I’m good with), Peter Gammons has Texas among at least six teams checking in with San Diego on right-handed-hitting outfielder Chris Denorfia, and after all this time there’s hardly any more certainty where Cruz will land than there is about Masahiro Tanaka’s eventual address, which will be determined no later than the afternoon of January 24, hours before the Rangers’ annual Awards Dinner at the Gaylord Texan.
The baseball winter is on the back stretch, but there’s still plenty that’s up in the air, and all those 2014 projections are just that, really, because sports, and even if we thought we knew how things would play out, the underdogs then haul off and get on a BCS winning streak that Winston and the Seminoles will try to snap Monday night in Pasadena, at the same time that Seguin and the Stars will try to take the Islanders down in Uniondale, New York, a mere five hours downstate from Auburn, home of the Doubledays, whose uniform was the first Arencibia wore professionally, which has me thinking again about 11 kids who are playing ball here in a little bit, after which we’ll have 43 sleeps left until Rangers pitchers and catchers report, which is about 42 sleeps too many, if you asked me, but you didn’t, so, you know, Happy New Year and all that and I’ll catch you later.