“To be honest with you, I hope they go 0-162. I got friends, and I love my friends, but I hope they lose their (expletive).” – Ian Kinsler
That quote headlined a story by ESPN The Magazine’s Robert Sanchez, in which he observed and spoke with the Detroit Tigers’ new second baseman in the weeks leading up to spring training.
Based on the recent pessimistic-tendencies going around Detroit concerning the new-look Tigers, many will see this excerpt and immediately think: “Great, just what this team needed, even more negative attention.” Although that statement in itself holds true, this shouldn’t be deemed as negative attention.
Fans in Detroit view the Kinsler-Fielder trade with the Texas Rangers as a salary dump in exchange for a diminishing, former All-Star player, who has a slightly smaller contract.
Kinsler is well aware of how he is viewed; how he was “too stubborn” to switch positions in order to make way for Rangers’ blue-chip prospect Jurickson Profar, how his new general manager Dave Dombroski applauded his all-around skills but says he lacks great range, and how he is nowhere near the 30-homer caliber player he once was. He knows what Tigers’ fans see of him from an outside-perspective.
With the words “Prove it” stitched into his glove, Kinsler is chomping at the bit to show Detroit what they haven’t seen.
What Tigers fans don’t see is this; a former 17th-round pick who spent close to three years climbing his way through the organization in order to prove he had what it takes to play in the big-leagues. Nobody, let alone an All-Star, was asked to switch positions in order to make room for Kinsler. He didn’t get his chance to “prove it” until there was a void at second base when the Rangers dealt Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals in the winter of 2005.
Why should he have to be the one to switch positions for the 19-year-old infielder?
Tigers’ fans don’t see that when his team was without a clubhouse leader following the departures of Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and C.J. Wilson, he had to step in. Kinsler, the longest-tenured Ranger at the time, was now accountable for the actions of his teammates. A burden that can have sharp consequences if the team doesn’t win.
As his (and his team’s) production was steadily headed downhill, Kinsler’s competitiveness drove him into a state of uneasiness. He knew the consequential-weight would fall on his shoulders, and it did.
Now, with his “prove it” attitude as prominent as ever, Kinsler is full of excitement heading into his first year with the Tigers.
He’s excited to step into an established clubhouse, this doesn’t have to be his team. “It’s Miggy’s team, it’s Verlander’s team,” Kinsler explained. “I’m just a ballplayer. I can just go play and have fun.”
Which is exactly what Kinsler plans on doing during his ninth major-league season. With all the changes that have happened in the Tigers’ organization, Kinsler doesn’t have to replace Fielder’s offensive production. All he has to do is be himself and play his game.
However, opinions regarding his comments shouldn’t need to be swayed. It’s spring training, quotes like these shouldn’t bring outsiders to question his character.
In hindsight would he have liked to re-phrase the words that came out of his mouth? Maybe, but probably not. Kinsler’s expression of raw emotion towards his former organization can be easily justified without shinning a light on his entire career.
It’s not like this is the middle of September when the focus should be on reaching the playoffs. It’s spring training, the Rangers are all he has ever known, and the feeling of betrayal is what is fresh in his mind.
Kinsler is now included in the Detroit Tigers’ brotherhood, one that has stepped away from the past and is focusing on the present task of preparing for a new season; a new season that hopes to end with a World Series crown.
Just as Fielder has his “fresh start” in Arlington, Kinsler has his here in Detroit; his new home, his new identity.
A chance to “prove it” once more.