The day after Tampa Bay 5, Texas 2, a game in which Ian Kinsler turned out to be the Rangers’ final baserunner of the year, Ginger and I decided it was time to begin watching “Breaking Bad,” start to finish.
I’ll never forget where I was when, seven weeks later, I heard Kinsler was traded for Prince Fielder. We were just sitting down to watch the final two of the series’s 62 episodes.
I’m sad it’s over.
There are reasons to like the trade.
There’s the addition of much-needed left-handed slug.
There’s the clearing of an everyday spot for Jurickson Profar.
There’s the math revealing that, effectively, Texas will pay $19.7 million per year to have Fielder through his age 36 season (2020) while Detroit will pay $23 million per year to have Kinsler through his age 35 season (2017) (though Detroit’s $30 million subsidy won’t actually kick in until 2017-20) (but hey, that means if Ronald Guzman is ready to roll by then, the Rangers won’t have to chip all that much in to move Fielder elsewhere).
There’s the reality that seven years and $138 million for Fielder probably looks a lot like what Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo will approach this winter, and given the choice between the three (and the relative scarcity of power around the league), I know which one I want. (Not that we can categorically rule out having two of them.)
There’s the fact that Fielder is just 29 while Kinsler is 31.
There’s the excitement of an old-fashioned blockbuster baseball trade.
There’s the factor that may be most critical here — that Fielder, coming off arguably his worst season (that still resulted in a .279/.362/.457 slash and 106 RBI), may be poised for one of those something-to-prove seasons in a new uniform.
And I do like the trade. It addresses multiple problems with this lineup, and demonstrates an ownership and baseball operations commitment to go hard after ways the group believes it can get better. I’m a believer in the axiom that you always want to get the best player in the deal if you can, and I think Texas has done that. Fielder, despite his physique, has been more durable than Kinsler (in fact, more durable than just about anyone else), and given where Kinsler’s offense has headed the last two seasons, when he’s no longer a middle infielder, what is he?
That’s OK, I think.
It sort of ties in — sort of — with the story I was prepared to write today about David Murphy moving on to Cleveland.
I got a ton of email messages from readers after word broke on Tuesday that Murphy was going to sign with the Indians. One of them stood out. The message, no doubt from one of the many Rangers fans who bristled openly whenever I tweeted or wrote anything about Murphy short of suggesting he was an MVP candidate, simply said:
“Great. Now we have nothing to show for the Eric Gagne trade other than overhyped Engel Beltre. Fail.”
The fact that David Murphy — who had fallen off the map with Boston several years after the club had used a first-round pick on him, who had been scouted well and bought low by the Rangers, who shed the disappointment tag and established himself as a key piece on a contending Major League club, who went from a 25-year-old minor leaguer to a guy who will earn at least $25 million playing the game, and who will get half of that from a third organization that thought enough of him to quickly offer the 32-year-old what amounts to the fourth-largest contract yet signed by a free agent this winter — isn’t going to retire as a Texas Ranger made the July 2007 deal that brought him here a failure?
Under the same thinking, with Kinsler moving on, are we supposed to instantly downgrade what was one of the great Rangers careers?
A year after Kinsler was drafted, the Mavericks traded Antoine Walker and Tony Delk to Atlanta for Jason Terry and Alan Henderson. Is that a failed deal because Terry left as a free agent last year?
Or no, I suppose, everyone would give the Mavs a pass there since Terry helped Dallas win a ring.
But wait, does that make the Mark Teixeira Trade a failure unless Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, or Neftali Feliz retires as a Ranger — or unless at least one of them wins a World Series here? Same with the Rule 5 pick on Class A outfielder Alexi Ogando?
And what’s the point? Is it to hang onto the players we all really like as people and role models even when their usefulness as baseball players begins to wane, or is it to win the very last game of baseball’s post-season?
Maybe the answer isn’t the same for everyone. OK.
But I don’t understand the sentiment that David Murphy (or Kinsler) wearing another uniform, in a profession and certainly a sport when the ones who last a long time almost always wear more than one, amounts to a failure for the team he’s moving on from.
Do the Rangers have “nothing to show” for Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera, just because they didn’t win a World Series with Josh Hamilton?
“Nothing to show” for Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson, just because Cliff Lee didn’t stick around long-term? Or for Frankie Francisco because Mike Napoli moved on?
Will Texas have “nothing to show” for its insistence that Milwaukee, as the seller in July 2006, tack 4-A Nelson Cruz onto the deal that sent rental Carlos Lee to the Rangers for Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero — if Cruz leaves this winter?
Well, I suppose there will be the compensatory pick after the first round in that case, just as Hamilton’s departure turned into infielder Travis Demeritte and Lee leaving led to Texas drafting lefthander Kevin Matthews and outfielder Zach Cone.
And if Demeritte and Matthews and Cone and whoever the supplemental first for Cruz would be don’t help Texas win a title before their time here is done, what then?
Do we as fans having nothing to show for however long and however much we’ve invested in these last 42 years? Does anyone actually think that way?
Was the step-out to sign Adrian Beltre a failure if he retires as a Ranger without winning a World Series?
Was Kinsler’s time in Texas a failed bit since the player Texas found in the 17th round and developed into one of baseball’s best second basemen didn’t help bring home a ring while he wore the uniform?
Of course not.
I’ve been a Kinsler guy since that 2004 spring training, his first, which I’ll never forget (four months before John Hart traded him to Colorado with righthander Erik Thompson for outfielder Larry Walker . . . who vetoed the deal) (then again, had Texas chosen Robinson Cano rather than Joaquin Arias from the Yankees to complete the A-Rod trade three months before the Walker near-trade, Kinsler likely would have been traded somewhere else once the Rockies deal died). The bat speed, the foot speed, the chip on his shoulder. The toughness on the double play pivot and everywhere else, the ability to do what your leadoff hitter needs to do while throwing in a little middle-of-the-lineup damage, the tear from first to third, the swagger.
Yes, the pop-ups and the pickoffs drove me crazy at times. But no player is perfect, and Ian Kinsler could play for my team any day.
I don’t dislike David Murphy and never have. As Jeff Wilson (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) tweeted yesterday: “Media loses a go-to guy. Rangers lose a good guy.”
Unassailable, on both counts.
Was I upset that Murphy, in spite of a career that in some respects has been fairly similar to Alex Gordon’s, didn't have Gordon’s left field range or outfield arm or defensive court sense? No. Not Murphy’s fault. He is what he is.
And what that was was very good here, in spurts, a couple of which — the last two months in 2010 and the last month in 2011 — were a pretty big deal.
Whenever a player, especially one on the wrong side of 30, gets traded (in part) to make room for a much younger, much cheaper player who is judged to be ready to contribute every day, that’s typically good baseball management, even if it doesn’t always please the P.R. meter. When one of those players gets the opportunity to sign what will be his only multi-year contract for a whole lot of money, you’ll almost never see me complain about him leaving whatever situation he had in order to do it.
Given the circumstances as a whole, moving Kinsler made more sense than moving Andrus or Profar, especially if there was an opportunity to get a core piece in return. Given the team’s overall situation, Texas was never going to pay Murphy $12 million to play his age 32 and age 33 seasons here. With Cleveland willing to do that, I’m happy for Murphy and am totally behind his decision to accept the deal. It would have been foolish not to — just as it would have been foolish for the Rangers, whose needs are too great in other areas to pay that amount for that player, to make offer him that contract.
I can’t say I’m happy for Kinsler, but he’s seen just about every one of his veteran teammates go (if not come and go). It’s rare for a player to spend an entire career in one place. Kinsler knows that.
Just because I’m absolutely OK with the Kinsler trade and the Murphy exit via free agency doesn’t mean I had a problem with Kinsler (far from it) or that I wasn’t fine with Murphy in the right role.
The Rangers have plenty to show for Kinsler, their 17th-round pick in 2003, and for Murphy, the 17th overall pick in that same draft, a change-of-scenery prospect they acquired for the aging rental closer they’d gotten a mere four months of work out of. Even without either bringing a ring while they were here.
If the sole measure of whether a draft pick or a trade pickup or a signed free agent worked is whether that player finished his career here, or helped the Rangers win a ring, or both, then you’re setting yourself up to accept that very few moves are ever going to work. Suit yourself.
I wouldn’t ever say that I have nothing to show, as a fan, for the investment I made in the 2010 and 2011 Rangers, who fell just short.
Or for everything I put into the other 35-plus seasons I’ve spent caring a whole lot about this team.
I have plenty to show for all those years. It doesn’t always work out, in the ultimate sense, and in fact usually doesn’t.
My “Breaking Bad” experience is over, too — on the same night that Kinsler’s Rangers career ends — and I’ll miss it. Maybe it’s easier to let go since my experience with the show lasted just seven weeks, rather than the full six years. Still, I hate that it’s done.
But I’ll think of it well.
Just like Pudge and Cliff and Nolan and these four guys:
There were different reasons that Texas and those four parted ways, and chances are one day Prince Fielder might wear a uniform that doesn’t say “Texas” or “Rangers” across the front. That’s baseball.
But for now, Adrian Beltre will see Andrus and Profar and Fielder to his left just about every night, and until yesterday not one of those three was a lock going into 2014.
The Beltre deal concerned lots of people when Texas made it three winters ago, because of his age and the dollars and term involved. That one’s worked out pretty well so far.
Even though Beltre isn’t wearing a ring yet.
Fielder isn’t wearing one, either, though he’s gotten close a few times, just like Andrus and just like Kinsler. The Rangers wanted to sign him two years ago, and you have to wonder what might have been in 2012 and 2013 if they’d succeeded.
But that’s in the past, and the Rangers have acted quickly this winter to tend to business as far as their American League future goes, to start taking advantage of every opportunity they can to help their chances to win going forward.
That’s the part that has me fired up about Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder and $30 million, a deal that reportedly came together in the span of about 24 hours. And about whatever’s next, because Texas isn’t done.
Which doesn’t mean, in the case of Kinsler or David Murphy or anyone else who has outplayed their draft position here or who redefined their careers here or who came here for three glorious months before moving on, that I’m not a fan of what they contributed in the past.
But get overly caught up in that, and lose sight of the primary objective, which is to get better and to win, and those numbered jerseys and T-shirts in your closet might stay relevant longer . . . but end up on your back in an emptier ballpark, with a stale ballclub playing meaningless games to ride out the season’s string.
None of us wants that.
Like Walter White said in Season 1 of “Breaking Bad,” which was great and which is over and which nonetheless gave me an experience I feel like I’ve got plenty to show for and which I won’t ever forget:
Sometimes you’ve just got to change the equation.