Since he came up to fill the void left when Alfonso Soriano was traded to the Washington Nationals, Ian Kinsler was one of my favorite players. I loved that he looked goofy (because I look goofy), that he gave every game everything he had and, most importantly, he rocked the knee-high socks (I think every player should).
As his career progressed, there was no doubt that Kins, along with Michael Young, was one of the team leaders. On the field, he filled the leadoff position nicely and twice joined the 30/30 club. He owns the team record for leadoff homeruns from that position, as well.
However, Kinsler wasn’t perfect. Fans would tell you that more than anything, his knack for hitting infield pop-ups was downright painful and annoying. He was all-to-eager to swing at the first pitch, a trait pitchers caught on to, and that usually meant a shallow fly to second or short. On the defensive side, Kinsler could flash some serious leather and make impossible plays look routine. But he could also make routine plays look impossible.
As he grew older, his contract became a burden. Paying an aging second baseman with declining numbers like he was the premier player at his position was becoming detrimental to the team. In 2013, team management asked Kinsler to move to first base or the outfield so that top prospect Jurickson Profar could make his way into the lineup. Selfishly, Kinsler said no. Little did he know that decision would cost him his spot on the team.
The 2013 offseason provided Rangers GM Jon Daniels an opportunity to free up a spot for Profar and bring in some serious left-handed power, something the Rangers were lacking after the departure of Josh Hamilton. Daniels traded Kinsler to the Tigers for Prince Fielder and cash.
Naturally, the fan base that had watched Kinsler grow from a kid to a team favorite was sad to see him leave. There were even quite a few fans who became upset with J.D. for trading Kinsler, feeling betrayed, of sorts. However, baseball is a business, and when a GM lets his personal relationship with a player dictate how that player is treated, you become the Dallas Cowboys – a perpetually bad team tied up in big contracts with no way to bring in fresh talent. Daniels may be many things, but he is not a businessman that lets his emotions guide decisions. He does what the team needs him to do, and sometimes, those decisions are not popular – but they are the right decisions. Such is the case with Kinsler.
Kinsler was angry with the trade. He has that right and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. However, the way that he handled himself after the trade shows his true colors. Airing out his dirty laundry in an ESPN The Magazine article, Kinsler calls JD a “sleazeball,” and says that he hopes the Rangers go 0-162. He complains that the Rangers “burdened” (my quotation marks for sarcasm) him by wanting him to be a leader and show some of the younger players how to be a pro, when they should have just let him worry about himself. Furthermore, he reignited the Nolan-JD controversy by claiming that Daniels forced Nolan out and that Nolan “shits gold” in North Texas and JD would regret that move. (Editor’s Note: I will have a column up later in regards to the Nolan controversy, stay tuned) He ends it by saying that he is glad he is playing on a team that has Cabrera and Verlander so he can just be himself and not worry about the Tigers being “his team.”
What can we learn from this interview? A few things. First, Kinsler clearly doesn’t understand that baseball is a business and that no one – let me repeat, no one – is bigger than the team. If Michael Young can get traded, then anyone can be traded, especially a statistically declining second baseman. Second, Ian Kinsler’s maturity level is closer to that of a child than a professional ballplayer. No one expected him to be happy with the trade. But to go to one of the biggest sports news outlets and call your old boss a “sleazeball” – c’mon, grow up. If you have a problem, call JD, tell him you’re pissed and leave it at that. Don’t invoke the scorched earth policy and burn everything in sight.
Third, after all the organization had given him, Kinsler would rather see turmoil in the front office than any semblance of stability. He knew that the Nolan issue was, though mostly healed, still a touchy subject. He made these comments solely to put himself on the side of Nolan in an attempt to make himself look to be a member of the excommunicated “Team Nolan,” which puts more pressure on JD and fuels the JD haters. Again, a childish move.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we learn that Kinsler wasn’t a team leader, or even a team-player. Kinsler was solely about himself. He didn’t care about the success of his teammates while he was here, which leads me to believe that he didn’t truly care about winning. After all, how can one not want to help his teammates grow yet does care about winning, when the two concepts are directly related to one another?
So there it is, the point of my diatribe – Ian Kinsler no longer cared about the team or the organization, so he no longer had a place with it. Jon Daniels did what he had to do – he removed the cancer before it spread to other parts of the “body.” He replaced declining talent with near-unlimited potential. He replaced a below-average bat with immense left-handed power in a park that is designed for lefty power. He made it clear that no one is above the team.