What was he thinking?
“DFW teams could all use more edge. Kins has some of it. I miss Tyson Chandler and Steve Ott.”
I tweeted that nine months ago. I thought about Chandler and Ott again yesterday.
And about Mike Napoli and Cliff Lee.
Maybe they all had issues with local management, for not offering more money or years, or for trading them to Buffalo. Maybe they were bitterly livid. Felt like name-calling. Wished 82 straight losses on their former teammates, or 162.
But they didn’t voice it into an unconcealed dictaphone.
Name all the great athletes, in any sport, in your lifetime, who would have said the things Ian Kinsler did for the ESPN The Magazine article that was posted yesterday and who don’t play for the Angels. Give Kinsler benefit of the doubt, and assume there were some context issues with how his comments come across — and still, ask yourself how many star ballplayers would have chosen the words he did.
There’s nothing subtle about Kinsler’s game. Nothing soft. From the 17th-round pick’s first spring training, 10 years ago this month, until now, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen quicker hands at the plate. He got under opponents’ skin, and we loved him for that. He hit for power and he ran the bases and he turned the double play at second as well as anyone in the game. He would fall into sporadic ruts where the pop-ups and the pickoffs piled up, but he was also the guy who was capable of putting his teammates on his back, and seemed to relish that.
What he didn’t embrace, we now know, was the responsibility of leading in all those other ways, evidently. I can’t get my head wrapped around Kinsler telling ESPN that Rangers management “wanted me to lead these young players, teach them the way to compete, when the only thing I should be worried about is how I’m performing in the game.” I can’t understand Kinsler thinking that way, let alone choosing to verbalize it to someone whose job is to share words with a world of sports fans.
My thoughts turned to Alex Rodriguez and the comments he made to that same magazine, during that first Ian Kinsler spring training, weeks after the Rangers had traded the star shortstop. “I remember driving home with my wife, Cynthia, after a game and telling her, ‘I just don’t see the light. Where is the light? What am I in this for? I would have never gone to Texas if they had told me, ‘Alex, it’s going to be you and 24 kids.’ Never. For no amount of money.”
You and 24 kids.
The Kinsler/Profar angle that some reporters are focusing on reminds me a bit of Palmeiro/Teixeira.
After Kinsler’s comments were shared with his former teammates and former manager and former general manager yesterday, they all took the high road. Every one of them.
Over the final year of Kinsler’s 10-year run with this organization, a franchise that’s sure to offer him enshrinement into its own Hall of Fame one day, there was an envisioned position change designed to make the baseball team better. It didn’t happen, because Kinsler didn’t want it to. Later on, and not unrelated, there was a trade, also designed to make the baseball team better. On that, time will tell. That’s where the general manager’s batting average gets defined.
Ron Washington said yesterday, confronted with Kinsler’s comments about the Texas GM: “Opinions [are] just that. It doesn’t make it reality. To me, Jon Daniels has been one of the best general managers in the game and everything that he’s ever done, he’s done it simply because it’s going to make our team better. That’s where his head is and that’s where his head has always been.”
It’s Daniels’s job to make the Texas Rangers better. It wasn’t Ian Kinsler’s job. At least that’s how he saw it, according to the ESPN article. And that stands out a lot more than 0-162, or the word “sleazeball.”
Dale Hansen, maybe more outspoken locally than any athlete has ever been, said this last night on his 10 p.m. sportscast: “Kinsler’s one of those guys — and there’s a lot of them — when they’re negotiating a contract or chasing the free agent dollars, they want you to know it’s a business. And then they get really upset when they find out it actually is.”
That part doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure Mike Napoli was “really upset,” and Tyson Chandler, too.
But they didn’t comment publicly.
There are degrees of edge.
Emmitt Smith said some pretty caustic things on his way out, too. And we’re all good now, right?
The thing about Kinsler is, for all the baseball beasting he provided this team, there were the occasional flat-footed pickoffs and the big-game ejections, and when those things happened, the reaction was never about his baseball acumen. It was instead along the lines of “What was he thinking?”
I wish Kinsler didn’t say what he said during that ESPN interview. I wish he thought about what was worth making public, and what was better off kept to himself.
I wish he didn’t balk at the responsibility — the opportunity — a veteran has to teach young players the way to compete, the way others had done for him. Because no matter what you think right now about Ian Kinsler, you can’t deny he was one of the greatest competitors that the greatest teams in Rangers franchise history ever put on the field. His competitive edge helped define this team’s best seasons, even if he didn’t want any part of taking the initiative to pass some of that along to eager teammates.
That’s part of what could have been an even greater legacy for Kinsler with this club, delivered right over the heart of the plate, and for some reason it was a pitch he didn’t want.