COMMENTARY | What's the most exciting play in baseball? For Texas Rangers fans, it can be a grounder to second. Ian Kinsler has turned one of the most fundamental plays in the game into a grab bag of either brilliance or baloney.
On any given afternoon, three-time All-Star Kinsler is probably the best second baseman in the game. A sharply hit ball to his right can become a moment of baseball artistry. Nobody on base? He deftly makes the grab, pivots -- either left or right, depending on the situation -- and fires an across-the-body strike to first, nailing the batter by a half-dozen steps.
In a double-play situation, Kinsler can be a magician. Shuttling the ball to a waiting Elvis Andrus or taking the flip throw and redirecting the ball to first with sleight of hand rather than stopping to make a throw. More Copperfield than Cobb.
But then there is his evil twin. The second baseman capable of two errors on the same play, muffing a fairly simple ground ball in a double-play situation because he's tossing the ball before he has it. Then recovering to turn and fire over Mitch Moreland's head at first and into the dugout. Kinsler can even add unnecessary drama to what should be an easy out -- setting up camp in short right field, 15 feet off the infield dirt and suddenly a slow-hopping easy play becomes a furious scramble to prevent an infield hit.
How manager Ron Washington still has any hair at all is amazing.
At the plate, Kinsler is a clutch hitter of the first rank. Pulling a much-needed homer out of his bag of tricks as if he can simply will the bat to clobber the ball. He can hit for power -- rare in a second baseman -- and then he can work a walk or get the key single.
Kinsler getting to first base offers even more entertainment. Opposing pitchers get uncomfortable when he's on base. Will he steal? He is only a few bags shy of the Rangers' all-time team mark and delivers a consistent 25-30 stolen bases a year. Or will Dr. Jekyll get picked off due to a boneheaded lead that he can't recover when the throw comes over? Or worse -- the rundown. Major League Baseball doesn't keep stats on "Most Times Caught in a Pickle" and the person most happy about that is Ian Kinsler's agent.
So what is general manager Jon Daniels to do?
All eyes turn to the No. 1 player in the minors -- the Rangers' AAA affiliate Round Rock Express shortstop, Jurickson Profar. Profar is young, only 20, his bat has proven a little light through his first month of Triple-A, and he's a shortstop, only occasionally playing second. The conventional thinking is that with Andrus and Kinsler both signed to long-term deals -- Kinsler is signed through 2017 with a club option for the '18 season -- Profar is more trade bait than a threat to change the middle infield in Arlington. But then once upon a time, Ian Kinsler was the team's No. 1 minor-league prospect and a natural shortstop all through college.
Daniels spent $75 million to keep Kinsler. And that means the good takes the field with the bad. For Rangers fans and Cardiac Kinsler, the routine double-play ball will continue to be the equal of the suicide squeeze for heart-pounding excitement.
Colin Holmes has followed the Rangers through 19 managers, 11 general managers, six owners, 25 different opening day pitchers, two stadiums and two World Series appearances. He patiently waits for a win in the last game of the year.
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