Rabid Reaction: Appreciate Ian Kinsler
Rabid Reaction: Our series of knee-jerk-styled, emotional overreactions from Ben Rogers of 103.3 FM ESPN's Ben and Skin Show. He's known to get way too excited over even the slightest of developments with the teams he grew up with in the DFW. Proceed with caution ...
Ask almost any local baseball fan who the most frustrating player on the Texas Rangers is and they'll undoubtedly answer Ian Kinsler.
One grass roots theory, confidently embraced by the fervent local message board community, suggests that Kinsler is obsessed with swinging for the fences, which has in turn resulted in a pop-fly graveyard as far as the eye can see.
Their expert diagnosis: a bad case of Home Run Fever.
Read their complimentary forum contributions and you'll soon have the image of a disheveled and foam-mouthed long ball fiend solely focused on the addictive and elusive fix of a slow and tantalizing home run trot. They paint the picture of a lonely second baseman roaming the streets of the worst Arlington neighborhoods deep into the night looking for someone to throw him batting practice meatballs anywhere in proximity to a short and shallow fence.
Their expert witnesses estimate that Kinsler's little pop-up party has been directly responsible for more broken remote controls, crushed plastic Solo cups and creative living room curse word theatrics than any local athlete's actions since Shawn Bradley worked for the Mavs as a poster model.
The anti-Kinsler case seems to center around the strange notion that he cares more about hitting home runs than just about anything else. Outrage seems to range anywhere between dropping him down in the batting order to banishing him to baseball prison.
This angry mob of Rangers fans is frustrated. And furious. And unappreciative.
Wait, wait, wait ... what?
Set down your torches and pitchforks, folks. Ian Kinsler is one of the best all-around players in baseball.
Many major leaguers specialize in one or two key areas and subsequently make a living out of it in the process. Kinsler, however, has varying degrees of prowess in all areas. There's nothing on a baseball diamond that he can't do, and do well for that matter. Yet remarkably, many fans seem to fixate on his tendency to hit fly balls and undervalue his all-around game in the process.
At 29 years old, Kinsler is in the wheelhouse of his prime. His accomplishments to date have clearly been of the 'five-tool' variety. For starters, he's an elite second baseman defensively. His range is above average and his footwork on double plays is commonly regarded as being among the best in baseball.
He can hit comfortably anywhere in a batting order -- and what's even more impressive, like a chameleon he can effectively change his approach accordingly.
He can hit for average, evidenced by his 2008 season in which he hit .319 in 518 at-bats.
Need power? He can launch rockets. Need speed? He can run on rails. He can even do both in the same season as he proved in 2009 when he had 31 home runs and 31 stolen bases in the same campaign.
He's also shown the ability to perform when it matters most -- in October. Last season in 54 postseason at bats, Kinsler hit .296 with three home runs, two doubles and a triple --with three steals and eight walks in just 16 games.
This season, his walking ways have continued. While his average has dipped below .250, he's top seven in the AL in walks. Would everyone in that organization like to see Kinsler's average be higher? Without question. But his ability to draw walks has in large part made up for that particular shortfall. And once he reaches base, time and time again he's proven that he knows how to light up a scoreboard (he's currently ranked fourth in all of baseball in runs scored).
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Recently on our show, we mentioned the wave of bizarre Kinsler venom we've been seeing to C.J. Wilson and asked him to provide some insight on the subject.
"Some people just can't handle Ian's baggy pants ... that are also short pants. They can't handle his hair. They can't handle his slight resemblance to James Franco," Wilson said laughing, addressing the madness with proper sarcasm.
But once the sarcasm chamber was empty, he reloaded with glowing praise for his teammate.
"Apparently they can't handle the fact that he's one of the best defensive second basemen in the last couple of years. He's phenomenal at second base.
"He draws walks. He hits for power. When you have a power hitting leadoff guy, that's very intimidating. He'll bunt, he'll steal bases, and he'll do everything he can to win the game,” Wilson said. "He's the most competitive dude out there on the field every day. I don't think people understand that when you have a guy that's a 30-30 player, but is still scrappy, that's just hunger. That's what he brings to the table."
If Kinsler's pop flies are keeping you awake at night, you probably think the TV in Jerry World is too small, Dirk Nowitzki could have done more for the Mavs last season and Nolan Ryan should have been more of a strikeout pitcher during his career. Ultimately, those pesky trees may be blocking your view of a pretty spectacular forest.
But if you insist on being frustrated with Ian Kinsler, be frustrated that he hasn't yet put it all together in one magically ridiculous over the top statistical tornado of a season. If and when he does, he'll probably be the AL MVP. In the meantime, don't let a few pop-ups distract you from recognizing what a truly elite all-around player you're watching night in and night out.
The Ben and Skin Show airs weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon on 103.3 FM, ESPN in Dallas-Fort Worth. Follow Ben on Twitter: @BenRogers
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