A Fire Inside: Missing that Spark?
There is no surprise or debate who the player-leaders are on the 2015 Texas Rangers. If you split it up into offense and pitching, you have Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus. On the pitching side, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland have taken up those roles (I don’t include Cole Hamels in this list because he hasn’t been with the club long enough to sync with these guys – Holland has at least been around the club most of the year).
They’re not bad leaders – they are mentors, students of the game, and prime examples of work ethic (in Andrus’ case, a study in developing and maturing from a young gun to tested and hardened ballplayer) who are admired, written about, and yes, criticized heavily, because so much is expected of them. Through everything, they go through their routine, come out, battle and do their jobs, unflappable, with steely gazes on the field or at the plate (save for Andrus, who does his more with flair and a smile). We have a favorite term down here for these guys. Hamels is one of them. Heck, so is manager Jeff Banister. So was Cliff Lee.
But is that always the best? Sure, a stoic stare or manner can be intimidating at the plate or on the mound, but when a team is struggling, we as fans can misinterpret that gesture, or lack thereof, as indifference. Let me assure you, this piece is not even close to calling into question the effort or heart of Fielder, Beltre, Andrus, Lewis, Holland or anyone.
As a fan, though, sometimes, I want to see hand clapping on the way to first. I want to see someone throwback the Claw or Antlers at second base. I want to see someone slam their bat down in frustration. I want to see frustration during these slumps. Look, as cool as it is to see that the guys on this team are not rattled during the tough times, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone show a little fire BEFORE they get to the post-game media interviews.
It could be, and has been, argued that a little temper tantrum would likely serve no other purpose but to make us, as avid fans, feel better. Maybe so. But this is a team that, from an optimistic perspective, looked like they’re lying in wait, and from a pessimistic perspective, looked sleepy. I would want to see someone give this lineup a good, verbal kick in the pants to wake them up from whatever happens when they go through a hitless-RISP stretch in a vital series like they just did in Anaheim. Maybe it’s Mitch Moreland, the man who has finally learned how to come back from the disabled list and have a successful career year. Maybe it’s Bobby Wilson, the catcher that never should have been playing for a playoff team, but finds himself alongside Chris Gimenez in some clutch situations – successful less often than desired, but still possessing the ability to execute a clutch hit like this one. Maybe it’s Rougned Odor, the player with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, who picked up his giant set and trucked it to home plate on a wild pitch in the dirt in Monday’s game.
They say that winning cures all, and even with that rough display of offense at the Big A, our Texas Rangers find themselves just one, single, solitary win away from first place. They are currently playing a team with nothing to play for in the Seattle Mariners. They will play another team with nothing to play for in the Oakland Athletics. After that, though? If there’s a team hungrier for success in this division, it’s the Houston Astros, and that’s the team the Rangers will either be chasing or defending against. The Rangers can handle another loss, but they cannot afford to go through another stretch where they walk six times in a game and score no runs or a stretch of 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Who will step up and light the matches on the Louisville Sluggers if that time comes around again?
This piece was born out of a knee-jerk reaction to the Angels’ series, I fully admit that, but I also had been thinking on this for a while. We’ve seen so much of the silent, wordless, “do it on the field,” “let my actions speak for me” leader.
Why can’t we have a fire starter?