Sports

Kinsler: Love him or hate him and most Rangers fans do

FORT WORTH, Texas – The big trade, not unlike the flighty second baseman sharing the center of it, is being both lauded and lamented.

Fans of the Texas Rangers are sorry to see Ian Kinsler go. The other half has volunteered to drive him to the airport.

He made you come to your feet and cheer. He made you shake your head and wince.

The female fans thought he was cute. Their boyfriends and husbands thought he was a punk.

For the better part of eight seasons, Ian Kinsler was an energizing force in the Rangers’ lineup. The rest of the time, he was Captain Pop-up.

And so it went for Ian Michael Kinsler, the former Spokane Indians standout who was traded to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday for slugger Prince Fielder.

Never has there been a more polarizing Texas Ranger.

You cheered Ian’s hits. Then, you grumbled and shook your fist when he promptly got picked off first base, 19 times over the past three seasons.

I liked him. Except when I couldn’t stand him.

That’s what kind of player the city of Detroit is getting. Enjoy him, Tigers fans. Excuse the pop-ups, because some of those inside fastballs will be ripped into the left-field seats for home runs.

Excuse the occasional baffling fielding miscue. Instead, marvel at how magically Kinsler can turn a double play.

He was a good guy, when he wasn’t trying to be a postgame butthead.

If the Josh Hamilton departure taught us anything, it’s that the current generation of athlete fails to appreciate the art of the graceful exit. Thus, we read the words of Kinsler’s agent, Jay Franklin, as he talked to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on the morning after the big trade.

“It’s not that he wanted to leave,” Franklin told Rosenthal. “But he saw the things Jon Daniels was trying to do going forward and could see the picture on the wall, that they were going in a direction that he did not want to be a part of.”

Franklin added this uncomfortable line:

“After they got rid of Josh (Hamilton), Ian arguably was the last player people could relate to.”

Whoa. Whether Franklin intended or not, his remark implies that Rangers fans only “relate to” 30-year-old white players.

There are, of course, scores of Texas fans who consider the likes of Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish their favorite Rangers.

Franklin and Kinsler can try to make general manager Daniels the villain in the big trade. But it was Ian who made Ian expendable.

It was Kinsler who, in mid-November of 2012, announced he was willing to change positions, if the club deemed it necessary.

“It’s my job to play baseball,” he said.

By January, barely two months – and one phone call to his buddy, Michael Young? – later, Kinsler was rescinding his cooperation.

He remained at second base. The club had no plans to move Kinsler to first or left for 2014.

In any case, the deal is done. The dollars are right.

Note to Detroit fans, though: Kinsler isn’t a 30-30 player anymore. I’m not sure if he’s even a 20-20 player, batting in spacious Comerica Park.

He was streaky. And he was prickly. He could be friendly with the local media and, in the next breath, be calling us a “box of rocks.” (We’ve been called worse).

But he’s got game, and there’s plenty of mustard in Detroit for it.

Rangers fans, I suspect, are going to enjoy watching Fielder try to launch arching drives to the right-field home run porch.

Ian Kinsler, meanwhile, should get a warm ovation when he returns here in June in a Tigers uniform. He earned it.

I’ll miss him. But if he needs a ride to the airport, let me know.



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