Every year, when spring training starts up, you know you're in for a certain number of stories about the aging veteran, starting over and trying to prove himself. What distinguishes ESPN The Magazine's new entry in the genre, a profile of Ian Kinsler, is that he comes off as utterly unhinged.
Kinsler, clearly bitter about the way his time in Texas ended, blames Jon Daniels for the downfall of the team. This regression, he says—unsurprisingly, given where you'd naturally expect the loyalties of players to lie—had to do with Daniels pushing out Nolan Ryan.
"Nolan put us on the map. He brought respect to the organization," Kinsler says. By 2012, that reputation was fading...
During that time, it was well-known throughout the game that there was a power struggle going on between Ryan and Daniels, who had acquired the title of president of baseball operations last March in a front office restructuring that ultimately led to Ryan's departure after the season. Kinsler squarely blames the man who traded him. "Daniels is a sleazeball," he says. "He got in good with the owners and straight pushed Ryan out.
It's hard to blame Kinsler for going scorched earth on Daniels after hearing how he learned that he'd been traded. He was in Hawaii on vacation after a season-ending loss in the wild card game against the Rays, and heard the news from a Dallas reporter. He looked online to see if there was anything to it and finally teammate and friend Adrian Beltre, whose agent Scott Boras also represents Fielder, confirmed it. Daniels—who claims the story "broke" while he was on a plane—was the last to contact him. He left a voice message.
Despite that shittiness, the profile strays from the usual narrative because Kinsler sometimes comes off as kind of a nutjob. Even the parts that are supposed to make you understand Kinsler's rising frustration are sort of bizarre. An anecdote from late in the season where he and Beltre got into after a routine play, for instance, is just kind of...man, relax.
Finally, in a late-September game against the Angels, Kinsler exploded over what he saw as a lack of effort from Beltre and Andrus. "Base hit to left," Kinsler remembers. "Leftfielder throws it in to Elvis. Elvis and Beltre are talking about the play, and Elvis is just holding the ball — like the game isn't even going on. It's not a dead ball. It's not timeout. The play is still live. I'm like, 'Hey! Let's f — ing go!' And Adrian's like, 'Chill out. We're talking about the play.'" Beltre and Kinsler continued their argument in the dugout and even went down the tunnel to hash out their differences.
Kinsler, a nobody who became somebody, refused to move positions to make room for a talented prospect. While his perspective on that is actually refreshing—no one moved aside for me, I had to earn my spot, I'm not just going to give that up to some kid—it also makes it seem Kinsler was primed for a fight. Michael Young's absence left Kinsler to fill the "veteran leadership" role and he wasn't having any of it.
"I was bogged down," he says. "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."
There's no room for a veteran still trying to prove himself to a team in the middle of a youth movement, unless he wants to facilitate the transition. Kinsler didn't, so he was useless to the Rangers, who'd much rather watch someone younger and cheaper try to right himself on their dime.
As for Kinsler, he's still got friends on the team, but that doesn't matter. He wants them to go 0-162. "I hope they lose their ass."
Photo credit: Getty Images
"I hope they go 0-162" [ESPN]