PHOENIX -- Ian Kinsler’s comments won’t really have an impact for the Texas Rangers beyond today. The story is now out there, and Kinsler has attempted to take some of it back. Sort of.
But Kinsler is no longer in the Rangers’ clubhouse. He’s not even in the division. And while the Detroit Tigers are one of the teams to beat in the American League, the Rangers have to worry about getting to the postseason through a competitive division before they concern themselves with the Tigers. That can wait.
I’m sure June 24-26 will be a little more entertaining now, if nothing more than to see whether Kinsler garners more boos in his return to Texas than Josh Hamilton did last year.
No, the real impact is on Kinsler’s reputation. The “0-162” comment is a shrug-your-shoulders-deal to me. Obviously no team goes 0-162, which is why Kinsler’s explanation that it was a joke might have some truth to it. But it’s clear from the article that he was happy to get out of Texas.
How is calling someone a “sleazeball” taken out of context? It’s not. Kinsler admitted that the comment was “childish,” but he didn’t deny saying it. It shows how he really feels about GM Jon Daniels, a point he reinforced Tuesday by saying he has no plans on calling Daniels. If he cared how Daniels felt or even wanted to try to explain himself, he’d call. He doesn’t. (Never mind that the guy he’s calling that is the one who agreed to give him the lucrative, long-term deal he now has.)
Some of you may cheer Kinsler’s honesty. Others may think that calling a GM who is no longer Kinsler’s boss is no big deal. But I think it’s a big mistake, and not just because burning bridges is rarely a good idea.
Put yourself in the shoes of a GM of any other team that hasn't dealt with Kinsler. In this game, scouting is a critical part of success. And that’s more than how a player looks on the field. The entire package is considered, including character and makeup. Those who know Kinsler may better understand why he said what he said and how much of it he actually meant. But what about those who don’t know him?
What happens four or five years from now if Detroit decides Kinsler doesn’t fit anymore and he’s looking for a new team? What happens when this deal expires and he wants a new one? Seeing a player you don’t know call a GM a “sleazeball” isn’t likely to help his stock. At the very least, it’s something Kinsler may be forced to explain.
I can understand Kinsler's frustration and disappointment in finding out he's been traded before the GM could call him. But there was no way the Rangers could have given him advance notice. Kinsler didn't have a no-trade clause to Detroit. What if the deal fell through? No GM wants to be telling a player they're going to be traded and then, when they're not, tell them it fell through and hey, 'we're excited to have you back and wanted you back all along.' Sure. If the trade didn't happen, neither the Rangers nor the Tigers wanted Fielder or Kinsler to know about it. So I get Kinsler's frustration there, but Daniels can't tell him anything before and when it breaks while he's on an airplane, there's nothing he can do.
As to the leadership part of the story, that’s where I think Kinsler was just being honest.
“I was bogged down,” Kinsler said. “They 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.”
He has a point. Many times when you get tenure, you’re expected to lead. Not everyone can, and frankly, not everyone wants to. But when the club makes the kind of investment it did in Kinsler, it probably expected him to take on some of that responsibility. As Daniels said Tuesday, apparently leading “wasn’t for him.”
None of this changes my prediction for Kinsler this season. I think he’ll have a solid year, more like the Kinsler we saw in 2010 and 2011, not the one who had his ups and downs the past few years. It’s a fresh start for Kinsler, something that should help him. He’s not the guy who's been in the same clubhouse forever anymore, so the expectation of leading shouldn’t be the same. That will help him.
But his off-the-field image took a hit Tuesday. There’s just no way around that. We’ll see whether he can make people forget about it with his play.