By: Holly Horning
Ian Kinsler is not a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. You never see him schmoozing with fans, doing choreographed victory moves with his teammates or even yucking it up in the dugout.
The man rarely smiles. In fact, if you had an audio feed, he would probably be emitting a continuous low growl at second base and at the plate. And maybe this is why he is so polarizing to many fans.
Let’s face it – we love guys with visible personality. We love guys with whom we can see sharing a beer – or in my case, a martini. But guys who appear a wee bit bristly and no-nonsense? Well, people judge them more harshly. And maybe this is why we keep reading on the social media threads about fans wanting him to be traded.
Personally, I’ve always liked Ian. I like players with intensity and a bulldog attitude. But Ian also fills a special need for the Tigers – something that has been lacking in this team for years. He is a fierce competitor and nothing makes him more insane than being behind in a game. He is exactly the type of player the Tigers need in order to succeed. This team could use more Ians.
Kinsler has listened to the critics and stepped up his second half of the year. Since the All-Star break, he’s put together some of the best offensive stats in MLB. In fact, he’s leading in many of the categories. And he ranks as one of the better second basemen, too.
When was the last time the Tigers had someone at second base possessing solid skills in both those categories?
And he’s durable, too. Kinsler only took off one game last year. Not even a whiff of injury. (Knock on wood.)
But what makes Ian even more valuable this year is seeing him not give up. The walk-off home run last week. The diving stop that prevented a run from scoring. Multiple game-saving moments just last week alone.
It seems that when the Tigers sold off three of their stars, Kinsler was determine not to let this team take the dark path down. He was not giving up on the season. This is value-added, folks. The intangibles that make the difference.
But Ian grew in other ways, too. I think he saw how this team was especially lacking leadership this year. VMart and Miggy on the DL for chunks of time, Torii Hunter now gone and no one else stepping up. Kudos to him for taking on this role after he told his former team, the Rangers, that he didn’t want the responsibility when they asked.
Kinsler also adds another advantage – the veteran experience in the infield. Outside of him, there’s only Miggy. And he holds that crucial position of strengthening the middle defensively. Who would not want to continue watching the Ian-Iggy double play combination?
In the meantime, his contract, currently one of the more expensive ones for second basemen, was front-loaded by the Rangers. Starting next year, his contract goes down to a very manageable salary and makes him one of the better values.
But could he be traded? Highly unlikely but these days, few players are exempt from a deal that could put them into solid contention. Maybe the Tigers receive an outstanding offer that could make a serious dent in that pit called starting pitching.
Realistically, the organization has no one in their system even remotely ready to replace Kinsler. And the Tigers haven’t tried to experiment with putting either JaCoby Jones or Dixon Machado at second base.
This is really telling about the Tigers’ confidence in his abilities. They finally have a guy who can hit, field and lead. A perfect trifecta.