I’m really enjoying the Rangers’ new additions in Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski. Both have been big time contributors during a period where the offense has been average at best. Berkman is hitting .360 (leads the team) and Pierzynski is hitting .310 (second on the team). While Berkman hasn’t been able to contribute anything defensively, and we shouldn’t expect him to, Pierzynski has done a serviceable job behind the plate, and from what I’ve been able to gather from player interviews and post-game commentary it sounds like both are contributing a lot in the clubhouse.
I have NEVER liked Pierzynski, but people have always said, “You hate him when he’s on the other team and love him when he’s on your team.” So far, I definitely fit that model. Listening to him talk in post-game interviews he seems to be full of class and has nothing but praise for his teammates, even when he’s the one who got the go-ahead homerun to win the game (like last night). Whether or not these guys will continue to perform is yet to be seen, but so far, I’ve really enjoyed having them both on the team.
Ian Kinsler has been another nice surprise this season. His stats are slightly better than what he usually does, but it seems his attitude has changed from last season. I’ve noticed more hustle and what appears to be a greater concern for winning and for his teammates. He’s running out ground balls, making better decisions on the base paths, and playing better defense. Kinsler is one of those guys I want to like, but his attitude last year, and for part of the season before, was just piss poor, and it showed in his performance. At least for the first part of this year, he seems to have changed for the better. That’s good, and it’s great for the Rangers. Kinsler, with his head on straight, is one of the best second basemen in the league. We haven’t had that for about a year and a half. It’s nice to see him coming back.
Poor Elvis can’t seem to get any breaks. I’ve pretty much watched every game, and as much as he makes solid contact, he should be hitting .400 right now. He’s had just a brutal streak of bad luck. It seems every time he bats he gets good wood on the ball only to hit it right to someone. He’s only hitting .224, but anyone who has been watching knows that’s a fluke. Last night he went 3 for 5 and finally got some hits to fall. He is an excellent opposite field hitter and as long as he keeps making contact like he has been, those hits should start coming in bunches. I’m hoping last night was a sign of things to come.
All of this is to say that the Rangers are doing just fine without Josh Hamilton, and I figured they would. The new guys have stepped up, Kinsler has a different attitude about him, and the pitching has been very good so far. Jamey Newberg made an interesting observation last night on Twitter. He asked if anyone remembered what Josh would always say when he was asked about his goals for the season. Newberg said it was almost always something like, “Hit .300, 40 HRs, 125 RBIs.” It was never anything like “Win a World Series” or “Win the division.” I never really thought about it much until Josh quit towards the end of last year, but he does seem to be an incredibly selfish player. It didn’t seem to bother him at all last season that his performance at the plate was hurting the team. He only seemed to care about the fans’ reaction to him and whether or not he was actually playing well. Last night, Josh was 4 for 4, but the Angels lost. It was his best hitting performance of the season, and yet not enough to win the game. After the game, Newberg wondered what Josh’s reaction to that would be. He had a good individual performance but his team lost. I think that’s a legitimate question, and I think I know what the answer is. That’s one of the main reasons why, regardless of the outcome of this season, I’m glad that Josh Hamilton is no longer a Ranger.
One last thing on Josh. I hope he figures it out one day. I really do. But right now he just doesn’t seem to have a clue. Ranger fans don’t boo Josh because he had a bad year last year. Mike Napoli had a bad year. Ian Kinsler had a bad year. Nelson Cruz had a bad year. Michael Young had a bad year. When Napoli visits the Ballpark this season he will get a standing ovation from Ranger fans. They love him, regardless of how bad his season was last year. Why? Because he continued to play hard, continued to show that he cared, and continued to show up every day and give it his best, even when he wasn’t performing to expectations. HE DIDN’T QUIT. That’s why Ranger fans boo Hamilton. Not because they aren’t “real” baseball fans, but because they ARE real baseball fans who understand the difference between being in a slump and just flat out quitting. Josh played poorly the last half of last season and he didn’t care at all. He didn’t care that the team lost, he didn’t care that he struck out every time he got up, and he didn’t care that he dropped a fly ball that might have cost his team the season. That’s why he gets booed. And until he understands that difference, he’s going to continue to be a cancer in the locker room and someone fans are not going to appreciate.