MLB Network recently voted Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler as the team’s new “face” of the franchise. Previously, team all-time hits leader Michael Young was the undisputed face of the Rangers; he was even given the moniker “Face” by adoring Rangers fans. After Young was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, the role of franchise face was vacated. Now that Young and his impeccable leadership ability are in the City of Brotherly Love, is Kinsler really the player you want as face of the franchise?
Is this “leadership” role really that important? Yelling in a guy’s face, similar to what Hunter Pence did last postseason, is not the reason the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2012 for the second time in three seasons. Players can be motivated and truly inspired by a pregame pep talk from the voice of the clubhouse, but if the team scampers onto the field in the top of the first inning, and the pitcher allows five runs, the pep talk is quickly forgotten. A team’s success is largely based on how well the pitching does on that particular day. A pregame motivational speech has no effect on how well the other team is swinging the sticks.
Kinsler is now the longest-tenured player on the Rangers, entering his eighth season in Arlington. He has become known for displaying poor body language and a disinterested attitude at times. Kinsler has even stated during the offseason he feels leadership is a bit overrated. Can a player who believes so little in the tangible aspect of leadership really be considered the face of the franchise?
If Kinsler isn’t the face of the franchise, who else fits the mold?
Adrian Beltre. Beltre has been the Rangers most consistent and best overall player since joining the team two years ago. His line of .310/.347/.561/.908 with 68 home runs and 207 RBIs in two seasons is quite impressive. Beltre has been a vacuum cleaner at third base, making spectacular plays daily, and his two Gold Gloves exemplify how well he has played the hot corner. Beltre also has placed in the top 10 in the AL in WAR in both seasons with the Rangers. However, Beltre turns 34 in April and only has three seasons remaining on the five-year, $80 million contract he signed in January 2011. With third base prospect Mike Olt stuck behind Beltre, one wonders if the Rangers would consider dangling Beltre in trade talks, especially if the team is struggling at the trade deadline.
Yu Darvish. The Rangers paid a handsome price to win the posting of Darvish last offseason, before signing him to a six-year deal. Darvish dominated in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters, but many pundits wondered if Darvish’s success in Japan would continue in the big leagues. While the rookie struggled at times with his command, his overall numbers were impressive for a player in his first MLB season. Darvish posted a 16-9 record with a 3.90 ERA. He struck out 221 batters (fifth in AL) and posted a WHIP of 1.28. Darvish’s 10.396 strikeouts per nine innings were second in the AL, but his 89 free passes were fourth highest in the league. If Darvish improves his command, he’s capable of being the true ace Texas has desired for years.
Elvis Andrus. Andrus has quickly become a fan favorite in his four years with the Rangers. He displays excellent range at shortstop, and makes plays that has fans wiping their eyes to make sure they were not looking at an optical illusion. Andrus’ defensive reputation around the league has earned him two All-Star appearances. However, when inspecting his numbers over four years, Andrus has been pretty ordinary. His career line of .275/.342/.353/.695 is fairly average, but he has finished in the AL top 10 in singles the last three seasons. On the downside, Tiny E often loses focus in the field and on the bases. Andrus is a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and has been the subject of many trade rumors for two reasons: the Rangers have the game’s number-one prospect, Jurickson Profar, and the baseball antichrist, Scott Boras, represents Andrus. The Rangers would like to re-sign Andrus, but if he is seeking an exorbitant deal worth more than a player of Jose Reyes’s caliber, the Rangers should refrain, unless he begins to develop extra-base power. I’m not suggesting Andrus is a below-average player, but I believe his production isn’t worthy of a contract in the $100 million range.
Jurickson Profar. Profar was recently ranked as the number one prospect in all of baseball by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The shortstop turns 20 in February, and has an incredible amount of talent. Presently, Profar’s future is unclear because of the Andrus contract situation and Kinsler’s desire to remain at second base in 2013. Profar is also coveted by other franchises and is the subject of trade rumors, but the Rangers will not consider trading him unless the return piece is a pitcher of Felix Hernandez’s ilk. Fans view Profar as the golden child with the ability to step in the lineup immediately and become a major contributor. He will probably begin the season in the minor leagues to ensure he is under club control through 2019, but if Kinsler or Andrus get injured early in the year, Profar will play every day. There is also the rather miniscule chance Kinsler could move to right field and Profar could play second base to open the season if Nelson Cruz is suspended after being connected to a performance enhancement drug ring in Miami.
Ron Washington. Wash has become popular among the Rangers fan base for his catchy sayings such as, “That’s the way baseball go.” However, Washington’s micromanaging, admiration of the bunt and stubborn refusal to play younger players has miffed quite a few. Wash is just a manager, and the days of colorful, argumentative field generals are long gone. His off-field drug controversy three years ago almost cost him his job, and he no longer reveals much of his personality to the media. If the Rangers have another collapse this season, Wash’s future with the Rangers could be in jeopardy.
Nolan Ryan. Describing the eminence of Ryan is not necessary. The man even has a mascot featured in the Texas legends race at The Ballpark in Arlington. He is one of the more beloved figures in Texas. However, a certain owner across the parking lot in Arlington is already the face of his franchise and his hubris leaves any other owner incapable of being a face.
If not Ian Kinsler, who do you think is the face of the Rangers? Is it a player I didn’t mention? Let me know what you think.
Follow me on Twitter @DustinDietz18 for more baseball wisdom.